Tug boat saves the night as runaway barge floats toward Tennessee River bridge

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Both directions of Interstate 75 were shut down for a little over an hour Friday night as law enforcement officials took precautions for an unmanned barge floating toward the Tennessee River bridge.

A local tugboat saved the night. 

Loudon County Sheriff Tim Guider says a tugboat caught the runaway barge around 9:30 p.m.

Sheriff Guider also said their initial information was that 200,000 pounds of unknown material was on board the barge. 

The Loudon County Sheriff’s Office says the barge was intercepted by the tugboat some 600-800 yards from the Tennessee River bridge. 

After lanes were reopened, traffic in both directions is at a slow crawl, according to people caught in the precautionary highway jam. 

Some drivers were not patient with the slow progress as the interstate was reopened. One tried to go across the rain-drenched grassy median from the southbound lanes to northbound, and got stuck. 

Another driver tried to follow and also got stuck. 

Both vehicles had to be towed out, according to WATE 6 On Your Side’s on-scene crew. 

According to the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office, deputies and Tennessee Highway Patrol were on the scene and diverting traffic at Sugarlimb and Loudon exits. 

Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) spokesman Mark Nagi tweeted out about the “runaway barge” just after 9 p.m.

WATE 6 On Your Side has staff on the scene. We will update this story as more information becomes available. 

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