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Barges break loose at C&O Canal worksite, float in Potomac River

A construction barge carrying a Caterpillar excavator and other equipment broke loose and floated in the Potomac River Saturday. The other barge broke loose Sunday.

MARYLAND, USA — Two barges were spotted in the Potomac River after breaking loose from a C&O Canal worksite over the weekend.

The barges originally broke loose around Williamsport, Maryland, according to Maryland State Police.

On Saturday evening, the first construction barge carrying a Caterpillar excavator and other equipment broke loose, while the second barge floated away on Sunday afternoon. Both floated downriver toward Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, according to a release from the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park.

As of Sunday night, both barges were upstream from Harpers Ferry, “which alleviates some concern that they could impact area bridges,” the release stated. 

The bridges between Loudoun County and Maryland remained open on Sunday. National Park Service and multiple agencies already responded and say that they will continue to monitor this situation.

The release went on to specify that the river in the Harpers Ferry area is still running at minor flood levels and that water levels are higher than usual in the Potomac after the weekend’s persistent rain. 

Those planning on visiting Harpers Ferry National Historical Park should check the park website or social media channels for the status of the pedestrian bridge.

Visitors to C&O Canal National Historical Park should check the park website for information about current conditions and closures, the park has advised.

“As always, be careful when venturing outdoors. Even now that the rain has passed, water levels in area rivers and streams, including the Potomac River, are still high along the C&O towpath, and trees have fallen across the park,” the release warned. 

“Trails along the river may be impassable or closed. High water may impact low areas of the park, and conditions may change unexpectedly. Be aware of possible debris on the towpath, flooding, washouts, and falling trees.”

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