Saturday, April 25, 2015

Catch Up Week, Day 1: Accident at the Racine Locks and Dam

It wasn't what we wanted to see, but it gave us a good day nonetheless.

Two weeks ago, on Saturday, April 11, a Facebook friend (C.R. Neale) posted a message from the Corps of Engineers saying the Racine Locks and Dam had been shut down because a tow had broken up and some barges were missing and unaccounted for. It was early afternoon, and I was unsure whether it was worth my time to drive all the way up there from Huntington to see it. The locks were still closed on the next day, so Adam and I decided to take a look.

We went up the Ohio side, because the locks are on the West Virginia side. Thanks to security concerns after 9/11, the locks are fenced off from the public, so we would not be able to see anything on that side of the river. A couple of miles below the dam, an Ohio state road was covered by high water from the Ohio. I didn't want to go through it, but I saw a car with lower road clearance than mine go through with no problems, so why not?

In the bend below the dam, we saw the (a?) box end of barge AEP 128 …

... sticking out of the water with the Amherst Madison towboat Lucedale keeping watch. Ahead on up at the dam, the barge that had been stuck at Gate 3 (the third one over from the locks) had been removed. I got a few pictures of the dam and the hydropower plant in high water …

… and we went downstream to look at that nice riverfront park in the village of Racine. On the way down, I stood on a guardrail post so you can see the location of the sunken barge and the bend relative to the dam.

At my age, that’s not necessarily an easy accomplishment, getting up and down like that in a narrow space.

On the way down, we saw the Capt. James Anderson heading back up the river lightboat. We went to the park, and I got a few pictures of the Sporn and Mountaineer power plants. We figured we would go back up the river to see where the Anderson was going. The Anderson was moving slower, particularly as it got closer to the partially submerged barge. The Anderson went in the narrow area between the barge and the shore, and it looked like the Lucedale moved over to protect the barge from the Anderson's wake.

I wanted to see a couple of things in the area, so I drove up as far as Letart Falls and got a couple of pictures that I've posted on my Flickr account. But Adam, being a teenager, got bored easily and wanted to go home so he could see one of his friends. So we did. And what happened when we got home? The friend was somewhere else, and Adam gave me the teenager's lament, "I'm bored." I said I didn't want to hear it.

It was kind of like news media.The river was shut down at Racine, but it was on a weekend when no one is around to cover it, and it was not in a populated area, and it was just barge traffic, so who cares? They didn't want to hear it, either.

I'll go back up that way this spring or summer when I can spend a day. There's a lot to see in the upper end of the Gallipolis pool and in the Racine pool, particularly on the Ohio side. That is, if you like country over city. Some people would like to spend a weekend in Pittsburgh or Cincinnati. I myself like to explore the smaller communities few people have heard of. They have some interesting stories of their own. But that's me.

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