Two runaway barges, torn free by floodwaters on the Arkansas river, slammed into a dam as onlookers evacuated from the town below, anxiously watching to see if the structure held.
Footage shows the two barges—which were carrying a total of 3,800 tonnes of fertiliser—sink within seconds of hitting the Webber’s Falls dam in Oklahoma.
WATCH: 2 barges break free amid severe weather and flooding along the Arkansas River; strike a dam near Webbers Falls in Oklahoma and get sucked below the waterline. https://t.co/pAzf0NAvOs – @kfor pic.twitter.com/lAfcuIJwDD
— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 23, 2019
The town of Webber’s Falls, situated on the banks of the river about a mile downstream, was evacuated as soon as officials learned that the two barges were headed their way.
BARGES VS. LOCK & DAM: Ever wonder what would happen if a barge broke loose during a flood and headed for a local lock and dam? These two in Oklahoma might give you an idea. pic.twitter.com/dHTn6JwFgm
— Local 4 WHBF (@Local4NewsWHBF) May 23, 2019
The flood waters were conjured by the same storm system that has torn through several states in the last few days, leaving at least eight people dead.
“Evacuate Webbers Falls immediately,” officials posted on the town’s Facebook page. “The barges are loose and has the potential to hit the lock and dam 16. If the dam breaks it will be catastrophic!! Leave now!
“If you choose to stay you are doing so at your own risk,” wrote town officials in an earlier post. “If you choose to stay, we advise you write your name and personal information on your arm in permanent marker. Please be safe!”
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol confirmed that the barges had sunk on striking the dam.
” The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is conducting a structural integrity assessment of the lock—that is expected to be complete by 6:00,” wrote the OHP in s statement, adding that Interstate 40 and US64 bridges will remain closed until army surveyors have checked them for structural integrity.
According to Tulsa World, the Arkansas river is close to rising beyond the record level set in 1986.
About 25 miles upstream, Tulsa Police Department evacuated neighborhoods along the river but did not identify the areas for fear of looting.