Tugboat trouble brings traffic on Monongahela River to standstill
A tugboat and 12 empty barges it was towing got hung up between the banks of the Monongahela Tuesday, creating an obstruction that brought river traffic to a standstill near the Historic Pump House in Munhall for nearly three hours.
The problem began when the tug, known as the Carrie Mays, encountered blustery winds shortly before 3:30 p.m.
“The empty barges sit quite a few feet above the water,” said Michael J. Monahan, president of Campbell Transportation Co. based in Houston, Washington County, which owns the Carrie Mays. “When you have the winds pick up, it acts like a sailboat.”
Allegheny County Department of Emergency Services chief Alvin Henderson said the vessel got into a situation that made it impossible to maneuver.
“As they were traversing the river, they actually went sideways,” Henderson said. “The barges in the front were on the descending bank and then the tug itself was close to the ascending bank, but not hung up on it.”
Emergency crews cleared the obstruction at approximately 6:15 p.m. using a rescue tugboat, the Brenda Sue, to separate six of the barges and take them downstream.
The Carrie Mays took the remaining six barges.
No injuries were reported.
Henderson said a Coast Guard advisory alerted river traffic that the channel was blocked.
He was unsure if any boats were in a queue area waiting to pass.
Henderson said a sheen visible on the water was river sediment churned up by the tugboat's motors, and that none of the boats were leaking fuel.
“It will basically correct itself through the emulsification of the water flow going downstream,” he said. “It turns into a point where it pulverizes and it's diluted with the water.
“Obviously, we still have the alert out to the public drinking water companies that are having intakes downstream from here. They're monitoring to make sure that there's no adverse effect on the public drinking water.”
The wedged barges caught the attention of many passersby in the Waterfront.
Darwyn Kasparek of North Huntingdon Township and Ralph Zemarel of Forest Hills were just sitting down by the river to eat some hamburgers.
“We got here shortly after it happened,” Kasparek said. “We're presuming, because of the way it looked, that he got too close to hitting the bank and he started sliding. He just about had the whole river blocked.”
“It's not a good day to be captain,” Zemarel said.
West Mifflin resident Mary Cardamone was going shopping.
“This is crazy,” she said. “I've never seen anything like it. To drive past and see all of these barges blocking the river, you can't help but stop.”
Gerrie Salo of West Mifflin said she saw television news accounts of the barge obstruction and decided to see it in person with her German shepherd Tassy.
“We always come here to walk,” she said.
Henderson said he has seen barges break free because they had not been tied properly, but he never before had witnessed a situation such as Tuesday's..
Stacy Lee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1970, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Trib Total Media staff writer Michael Hasch contributed to this report.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Linebacker Harrison coming along slowly since return to Steelers
- Pirates acquire infielder from Indians, designate Axford, Gomez for assignment
- Warhol bodyguard sued over hidden artwork
- Penguins look to buck shots, goals trend
- Steelers notebook: Shazier returns just in time
- Patron alerts store employees to burning Rostraver building
- Komen acceptance of drilling-linked money raises ire
- Fábregas: Cancer-stricken California woman chooses to plan her death
- 9-month probe leads to major heroin bust in McKeesport
- WPIAL football playoff clinchings
- Penguins notebook: Carcillo has no hard feelings after failing to make roster