Barge Accident Highlights Delmarva's Dependence on Chesapeake Ba - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Barge Accident Highlights Delmarva's Dependence on Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

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POCOMOKE, Md.(WBOC/AP) - An evening thunderstorm with wind gusts of more than 70 mph caused a cargo ship to run aground, coming to rest just a few hundred feet from the beach and drawing plenty of onlookers from nearby condos and apartments Wednesday morning.

The Coast Guard said the weather was to blame for the grounding of the 751-foot bulk carrier the Ornak and for a collision of two other vessels Tuesday night.
   
"It's really pretty amazing," Virginia Beach resident Dick Ullman said near the site Wednesday as people gathered to take photos. "This is a first. I've been coming down this way for about 50 years, and I don't remember a ship being blown ashore like this."
   
The Ornak, which typically hauls coal and gravel, was anchored east of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and ran aground near First Landing State Park.
   
No injuries, damage or pollution were reported due to the grounding or the collision. The National Weather Service reported that waves reached 4 to 6 feet during the peak of the storm, with sustained winds from 30 mph to 45 mph.

It happened near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, a bridge that so many people on Delmarva depend on.

Floyd Benedict lives in Virginia and travels across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel several times a month. He schedules all of his medical appointments over the bridge and buys supplies for his business.
 
"You've got to go where prices are cheap, so you can do all of your comparing for business; small business," Benedict said.

If this bridge ever went out of commission, Benedict said it would be a major inconvenience.

"Most people would have to go eight hours out of the way just to get across the bay," he said.

Jimmy Cash lives in Pocomoke City, but travels over it several times throughout the year. He said a detour could be costly.

"In the last couple of years, the toll has gone up and people, with gas the way it is, people wouldn't be able to afford to drive up and all the way around," Cash said.
    
Dr. Tylor Claggett, a finance professor at Salisbury University, said the local and regional economy would feel the impact if anything happened to this bridge.

"Salisbury is the second largest port in Maryland, “ Dr. Claggett said. “A lot of that is based on oil and petroleum that we import from outside sources here to Salisbury to be distributed throughout the Delmarva Peninsula.

He said any interruption could cause Delmarva to lose out on big bucks.

"Here locally, it would be hundreds of millions of dollars, and if you're talking about nationally or regionally, it could be billions of dollars," he said.

More than 100 million vehicles have traveled across the bridge, which turned 50 year old yesterday.
 


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