Two barges carrying thousands of pounds of fertilizer broke loose from their moorings Wednesday night and floated down the swollen Arkansas River before slamming into a dam, according to multiple reports.
Officials in Webbers Falls, a town of approximately 600 people about 70 miles southeast of Tulsa, had ordered a mandatory evacuation Wednesday afternoon because of the river’s rising level. On Wednesday evening, a post on the town’s official Facebook page sounded the alarm about the runaway barges.
"Evacuate Webbers Falls immediately," the post read. "The barges are loose and has the potential to hit the lock and dam 16. If the dam breaks, it will be catastrophic!! Leave now!!"
Muskogee County Emergency Management spokeswoman Tricia Germany told The Associated Press Thursday that officials were worried that the barges would block the water flow through the dam, but said the water initially appeared to be flowing well.
The barge emergency was the latest consequence of storms and torrential rains that have ravaged the Midwest, from Texas through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Illinois.
The Arkansas River was approaching historic highs, while the already high Missouri and Mississippi Rivers were again rising after a multi-day stretch of storms that produced dozens of tornadoes. Forecasters predicted parts of Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas could see more severe weather Wednesday night into Thursday.
Authorities urged residents of several small towns in Oklahoma and Kansas to leave their homes as rivers and streams rose.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.