WEBBERS FALLS, Okla. — Two barges that broke free along the Arkansas River have struck the dam near Webbers Falls.
On Wednesday afternoon, emergency management officials in eastern Oklahoma asked residents to completely evacuate the town due to dangers associated with flooding.
“Residents in the Town of Webbers Falls need to evacuate immediately. This is a life threatening situation. If you choose to stay you are doing so at your own risk,” officials wrote on Facebook.
The situation became even worse when authorities learned that the flooding caused two barges on the Arkansas River to become unsecured. Officials became worried that the barges would hit the dam, which was already under strain from the flood waters.
Initially, the Sequoyah County Sheriff’s Office confirmed on Facebook that the barges were located several miles upstream from Webbers Falls Lock and Dam 16. They were still tied together and were stuck on a rock jetty.
However, the barges somehow broke loose from the rocks as crews tried to secure them on Thursday.
Shortly before 12 p.m. on Thursday, the barges were seen heading straight for the dam near Webbers Falls. The two barges struck the dam, which caused one of the barges to immediately sink.
The force of the rushing watch caused the second barge to give way and sink as well.
Fortunately, it looks as though the integrity of the dam is still intact.
We’re told the barges were carrying fertilizer.
ODOT closed I-40 and Highway 64 Wednesday due to fears that the barges would break through the dam on the Arkansas River and cause catastrophic flooding. I-40 and Highway 64 remain closed Thursday morning due to the incident.
Mandatory evacuations are in place for Webbers Falls as engineers continue to assess the situation.