Saturday 4 May 2013

Collision leads to oil spill on swollen Mississippi.

A 6 km section of the Mississippi River was closed by the US Coast Guard after a towing vessel collided with a fleet of docked barges at Alton, Illinois, at about 1.00 am local time (6.00 am GMT) on Friday 3 May 2013, causing fourteen of them to break away from their moorings. This in turn led to an a series of further collisions, including one in which a barge being loaded with crude was struck, leading to around 1100 liters of oil being lost into the river. This is the second major breakaway barge incident in the area in two weeks, 114 barges broke away from their moorings in an incident on 20 April, causing damage to a number of facilities along the river.

The location of the Alton barge incident. Google Maps.

The Mississippi has always had a reputation for being a temperamental river, and has become increasingly prone to flooding events recently, due to higher precipitation in the American and Canadian Mid-West, caused by sustained higher temperatures over the Atlantic. This has lead to persistently high waters and a raised water table, which can quickly turn into floods when  additional water enters the system.

Residents building a flood-wall at Carksville Missouri on 21 April 2013. Reuters/Office of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.

The swollen river means that there is little that can be done about oil spilled into the river, other than to hope the turbulent waters disperse it quickly.

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