Holloway to call for state of emergency Monday

Mayor A.J. Holloway plans to ask the City Council on Monday to declare that a state of emergency exists in Biloxi as a result of the barge collision closing the Popp’s Ferry bridge Friday.

Holloway said the declaration underscores the urgency of making repairs to the bridge as quickly as possible.

“I want to count the repair time in days, not weeks or months, and I’d like to get that bridge back up and running in 60 days or less,” Holloway said Saturday.

The mayor had said Friday that the city plans to follow the same repair plan that saw the storm-ravaged Popp’s Ferry bridge repaired less than four months after Katrina.

“This bridge is critical to our day-to-day travels, and we’re not too far away from the June 1 opening of hurricane season,” Holloway said, “so I want a state of emergency declaration to let our state and federal partners know the enormity of this situation.”

After reviewing the bridge’s original plans late Friday, city engineers have determined that two 90-foot sections of the bridge were destroyed in the accident, as well as eight pilings. The overall bridge is 3,983.5 feet long, of three-quarters of a mile, according to its original plans.

Holloway spoke with Mississippi Department of Transportation leaders from the bridge scene Friday morning and again later in the day. He also consulted with structural engineers about the damage. The city had partnered with MDOT after the storm and used Federal Highway Administration emergency recovery funds to pay for repairs.

The tugboat Cheryl Stegbauer and five barges had been removed from the scene Friday night, and a barge was scheduled to arrive Saturday for workers to begin removing debris and the remaining three barges, one of which sunk in the accident. Also on Saturday, city workers turned on the bridge’s generator and raised the bridge’s draw spans to their fully erect position.

“MDOT engineers had asked that we raise the span all the way to its 180-foot clearance versus the 50-foot clearance where it was,” said Stephen Laiche of the city’s Public Works Department. “We were able to get it done, and we’ll leave it that way until told otherwise.”

Holloway praises city response to bridge incident

Comments from Mayor A.J. Holloway about Tuesday’s incident where a barge collided with the Popp’s Ferry bridge:

“We like to tell folks that we had the best-paid, best-trained and best-equipped police and fire departments you’ll find, and yesterday those departments, along with our Public Works Department and partner agencies, did a great job in responding to this incident.

“Our Fire Department had its special services vehicle on the scene, and the Police Department rolled out “Big Blue,” its command vehicle that also serves the bomb squad. These vehicles carry satellite-connected computers that provide information in the field, cameras on towers to help view the overall scene, emergency communications to reach anyone we might need, and in general just about everything that our men and women need for incident command.

“We had easily a million dollars worth of equipment, but the important thing is the emergency workers themselves and their training, from the Marine Resources people who assisted our watercraft all the way to the Public Works people who had the foresight to have pre-positioned ladders on the bridge.

“We meet and train for these things periodically. It’s training that you hope you never have to use, but Friday was another indication of why it’s important.”

New bridge photos

The Coast Guard has released aerial photographs from Friday that show how far south the barges were when they hit the Popp’s Ferry bridge. To see those photos, and some taken this morning, click here.

To see photo gallery from Friday, click here.