Update: A fifth towing vessel has hit the same Vicksburg Railroad Bridge prompting officials to close the river to towing vessels pushing barges under bridges, the U.S. Coast Guard said late Thursday.
The latest incident occurred Thursday afternoon and involved the towing vessel Thomas Kay. One ethanol barge has been damaged and the other eighteen dry cargo barges reported no damage.
The Captain of the Port has issued a waterway restriction calling for all towboats pushing barges to not transit under the bridges from mile marker 363 near Natchez, Mississippi north to mile marker 438 near Vicksburg.
Earlier Thursday, the Coast Guard said that a different towing vessel had also allided with the Vicksburg Railroad Bridge on Wednesday, marking the fourth incident involving a towing vessel hitting the bridge in just over a week as floodwaters continue to impact shipping on the Mississippi River.
The U.S. Coast Guard said that Wednesday’s incident was reported just after 10 a.m. and involved the towing vessel Wally Roller. All six barges in that case broke free, but they were all accounted for by Thursday morning.
The two allisions follow three similar incidents involving the same bridge last week. The Vicksburg Railroad Bridge, located at mile marker 435.8 on the Mississippi River near Vicksburg, Mississippi.
The first incident was reported last Tuesday when the towing vessel Ron W. Callegan pushing 22 barges struck the bridge, causing nine of the barges to break free. A day later, another towing vessel, the Inez Andreas, also hit the bridge, causing two barges to break free. The third incident occurred last Thursday when a barge being pushed by towing vessel Robert D. Byrd struck the bridge at about approximately 7:44 a.m.
The Vicksburg Railroad Bridge is to remain closed until a safety inspection is completed by the Vicksburg Bridge Commission and the State of Mississippi, the Coast Guard said.
The latest update from the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service said the Mississippi River at Vicksburg was at 49.1 feet, more than 6 feet above flood stage.
The Coast Guard has said it is evaluating additional navigation safety measures in order to reduce the potential for future marine accidents.
All five incidents are under investigation.