The Washington Post

Barges break loose amid Potomac flooding

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Two constructi­on barges broke free from their moorings amid flooding on the Potomac River over the weekend and floated miles downstream before being snagged by underwater materials, a National Park Service official said.

The larger barge carrying an excavator and other equipment got loose Saturday night but didn’t travel far initially, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park spokeswoma­n Christiana Hanson said. Officials were brainstorm­ing how to safely recapture that barge when a second barge broke free Sunday afternoon as floodwater­s rose further and both barges began to travel downstream.

The barges traveled miles along the river before they became stuck, Hanson said. The smaller barge was caught near the still-active Dam 4 in the Sharpsburg area and the larger barge was caught on the remnants of Dam 3 north of Harpers Ferry, W.VA., she said.

The Loudoun County Sheriff ’s Office said

officials kept watch out of concern the barges might strike bridges crossing the river.

The barges were secured by lines, but their pontoons were punctured as they drifted, which means their own weight helps to hold them in place, Hanson said.

The barges were part of a project to rehabilita­te a retaining wall and stabilize the towpath along a section of the historic canal near Mcmahons Mill in the Williamspo­rt area, Hanson said.

Heavy rains fell in the region Friday and Saturday. The Potomac rose to more than 19.5 feet in Williamspo­rt early Sunday from just above 4 feet early Thursday, according to National Weather Service data.

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