Barges break loose, crash into Oklahoma dam - - Texoma news, weather and sports

Barges break loose, crash into Oklahoma dam

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Two barges struck the Webbers Falls Dam on May 23, 2019. (KFOR via NBC News) Two barges struck the Webbers Falls Dam on May 23, 2019. (KFOR via NBC News)

WEBBERS FALLS, Okla. (AP) -- A pair of barges that broke loose on the swollen Arkansas River in Oklahoma crashed into the Webbers Falls Dam on Thursday.

Emergency officials had warned of "catastrophic" flooding if the barges struck the dam. Emergency crews had tried and failed to secure them.

The barges sank after striking the dam.

Muskogee County Emergency Management spokeswoman Tricia Germany said the barges were carrying a total of about 3,800 pounds of fertilizer. Germany said the concern was that the barges would block the water flow through the dam, but said the water initially appeared to be flowing well.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was checking the dam for structural integrity.

The barges had been floating out of control, on and off again, since Wednesday night near the town of Webbers Falls. Aerial footage from Oklahoma City television station KFOR showed the moment of impact shortly before noon Thursday.

Officials had issued a mandatory evacuation order because of flooding concerns Wednesday night for the 600 residents of the town, which is located about 70 miles (113 kilometers) southeast of Tulsa

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation said the Interstate 40 bridge and a state highway bridge remained closed over the Arkansas River at Webbers Falls as a precaution.

Over Memorial Day weekend in 2002, a barge struck the Interstate 40 bridge pier at Webbers Falls, causing part of the bridge to collapse into the Arkansas River. Fourteen people died after their vehicles plunged into the water.

Flood warnings remain in effect for much of Oklahoma, though forecasters said many rivers have crested and water levels were beginning to drop.

More than 9 inches (23 centimeters) of rain has fallen since Sunday in parts of Oklahoma after an already rainy spring.

Near Crescent, about 34 miles (55 kilometers) north of Oklahoma City, erosion left several homes hanging over the swollen Cimarron River. One unoccupied home rolled into the river, and authorities said others could collapse.

In Arkansas, forecasters issued flood warnings along the Arkansas River because of the expected rush of water coming from Oklahoma. editor Walt Zwirko in Denison, Texas, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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