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Tugboat Trouble

Kids: do not try this at home. Remember, this captain is a professional!

The Demopolis Rooster Bridge is located about 10 miles west of Demopolis, Alabama on U.S. Highway 80, across the Tombigbee River. It's called the Rooster Bridge because part of its funding came from a rooster auction held in Demopolis on August 14-15, 1919.

The photos below date from the spring flood of 1979. The tug released its barges on the lower side, but then ran into trouble and did turn over as the pictures show. This drawbridge has since been replaced by a clear span. Fortunately, no one was injured in this incident and the tug is still in operation on the Tombigbee.

Austin Caldwell, Mayor
City of Demopolis
Box 580
Demopolis, AL 36732

 

1. A towboat pushing a barge loaded with coal approaches a bridge at high water. The bridge lifts up to let the barges through.
2. Oh, oh. The bridge didn't open. The towboat can't stop. The tug released its barge and is backing full speed astern to avoid colliding with the bridge.
3. Here's the barge, on its own, on the other side of the bridge…with no towboat! You can see just how fast the river is running. It's obviously above flood stage.

4. Even with full power, the tug can't buck this strong current.

5. The strong fast current swings the boat sideways.

"Hmm. Aren't we supposed to go upstream or downstream?"

6. This is not what you want to happen!

7. The captain wishes he had taken out flood insurance.
8. "And you think you're havin' a bad day!"
9. "Hello, Boss? You ain't gonna believe what just happened!"
10. That flag may be low, but it's still flying.
11. The wheelhouse door and the second deck door are now open. Notice the lower right-hand corner of the picture: the bridge guardrail is now underwater.
12. More deck appears every second.
 
14. Water pours from the second deck doorway.
15. The working deck is still underwater, but rising.
 
17. That's smoke coming from the exhausts. This thing is still running! The prop wash shows the tug is back under power.
18. "Ho, hum. Just another day on the river."
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