"It was a pretty harrowing situation," said Joanna Natale, who expected her alternate route along Hwy 90E to be slow but never as slow as it was.
Her destination was New Orleans from Atascocita. Twenty miles outside Nome, Texas on the Liberty/Jefferson County line, she hit a major slowdown.
"And we did not move again for six hours and 45 minutes," Natale said. "It took me 20 miles to get through Nome and at Nome there was high water, so the traffic was going very very slow."
Natale was among the thousands of cars and trucks taking alternate routes to get around the San Jacinto River bridge. I-10 is shut down eastbound at Magnolia and westbound at Crosby-Lynchburg after at least two barges crashed into the bridge during the heavy rainfall.
Early this morning, multiple barges broke loose from the north side of the San Jacinto River @ I-10 East. Barges are stacked up. There is possible structural damage to the bridge, @TxDOTHouston will assess further this morning. @HCSOTexas is on the scene. #HouNews— Ed Gonzalez (@SheriffEd_HCSO) September 20, 2019
Be advised, both sides of I-10 East are completely shut down at the San Jacinto River. Alternate route suggestion: If headed outbound, take Beltway to 90, to 2100 . If coming inbound, 2100 to 90 to the Beltway. #HouNews #HouTraffic— Ed Gonzalez (@SheriffEd_HCSO) September 20, 2019
Nine barges in all broke free from their moorings just after midnight Friday. Four of them are owned by the Canal Barge Company.
"Let me begin by saying how we regret this incident occurred last night and how strongly committed we are to working side-by-side with the many federal, state and local agencies and other personnel who are engaged in mitigating this incident," said Joe Tyson, senior vice president of operation for Canal Barge Company.
Nearby residents, like those who live in West Meadows, are frustrated, too. Once again, they say, they are directly impacted by detours due to a bridge issue.
"Now we're mainly concerned with all the traffic backed up. With all the roads shut. How are they going to get out here to service us between law enforcement, EMS, fire," said resident David Schaffer.
First, the barges must be removed, says TXDOT. Then, the river must calm down before a full damage assessment can be done.
Tolls are being waived at the Sam Houston Tollway Ship Channel Bridge due to the closure of the I-10 bridge over San Jacinto. We are monitoring this situation. Check back for updates. #HouTraffic #HouNews— HCTRA (@HCTRA) September 20, 2019
I-10 East Freeway EB and WB at the San Jacinto River all mainlanes are closed. Several barges have impacted the bridges at this location. This is a developing situation that is further enhanced by the river rising. No est. time on reopening. Use SH 225 as an alternate. pic.twitter.com/DLpw4YH4TZ— TxDOT- HOU District (@TxDOTHouston) September 20, 2019
The water is still too high and flowing too fast for divers to inspect what is not obvious. Officials have no timetable for repairs.
Natale is glad it's all behind her. Her six-hour car ride became twice as long.
"I could have driven to California probably by now," she said with a smile.
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