22 April 2013 17:14 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS)--The Mississippi river continued to rise on Monday, threatening to cease barge operations and to flood towns and farms along the waterway.
Just a few months ago, levels were at historically low levels because of the drought in 2012.
However, steady rainfall last week continued in some portions of the river and the immediate weather forecast has predicted as much as an inch or more could fall in the upper Midwest. There are now areas stretching from Michigan to Louisiana under flood warnings as segments of the vital waterway are between 10-12 feet (3-4 metres) above the flood mark.
According to the National Weather Service most of the overflow has been in the northern parts of the river as areas south of St Louis, Missouri, are not expected to crest until later this week. Already the rise in the water levels have halted barge operations as several of the locks on the Mississippi were closed over the weekend.
The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) said it expects these closures will remain in effective until the middle of this week, but more rainfall could extend the estimated reopening.
Barge traffic is essential to the national economy and the communities it serves as billions of dollars worth of essential cargo such as fertilizer, grain and coal are carrying along the water corridor.
In terms of barges the increased levels have already caused problems beyond the halting of daily movement of goods as it is thought that the rise of water played a part in 30 barges breaking loose over the weekend near Vicksburg, Mississippi.
The vessels contained coal and grain with the lead barge having struck a bridge and others submerged as a result of the accident, according to the US Coast Guard (USGC), which is overseeing the recovery operations. So far, the USGC said 15 of the barges had been secured.
After the challenges faced at the end of 2012 with dwindling amounts of water and extended delays in shipping activities the sudden refill of the Mississippi was unexpected by many, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
In its 2013 outlook forecast released in March, the agency said that it was likely that without greater-than-normal rainfall amounts the river could see decreased levels once again. NOAA officials had estimated there was a 40% chance that water levels could recede enough to impede normal navigation in the later part of this year.
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