Ohio River gets angry in high water


Reid Stewart works 28 days on the boat, 14 days off. During high water like this, he encounters additional obstacles such as branches, logs and tires, any of which can damage the boat's gears and rudder. On the current trip, the boat was delayed for days by fog on the Mississippi, and later by high water on the Ohio that allowed for insufficient clearance of Cincinnati's bridges.

"If you're sitting at home getting ready to come back to the boat, you're checking on the river stages," Stewart explained. "Everyone would rather it be low all the time, because when the water goes up, the risks go up."

He said he's fortunate to work for a company that lets him determine how big a load is safe to transport under hazardous conditions. Pilots trade stories regularly of being forced to take more than they should because the more product they carry, the more money their employer makes. The Coast Guard leaves it up to the industry to decide what's safe.

"I lost quite a few jobs because I wasn't willing to take the load they wanted," said Carl Simpkins, a pilot currently on disability in Racine, Ohio.


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