Plunging river levels along the Mississippi River are causing serious issues for barge traffic. The U.S. Coast Guard closed 11 miles of the river near Greenville, Miss., Monday. Almost 100 vessels are stuck waiting for the river to be dredged before they can finish their trip, according to Reuters.
Falling river levels are not uncommon during the summer months in the central and eastern United States. However, the historic drought over much of the middle of the nation has the mighty Mississippi running well below normal, the lowest levels since 1988. Since little rainwater is flowing into the Mississippi in the drought-stricken Midwest, it is affecting the water levels downstream.
Very low water levels have exposed shoals, potentially putting river traffic at risk for running aground.
The area of river closed Monday by the Coast Guard has been closed on and off since Aug. 12, when a barge ran aground, CNN reported. Some docking locations are becoming too shallow to remove cargo easily.
The problems will continue through the autumn, unless widespread and regular rain comes. On average, river levels and water tables reach their lowest point during the autumn, barring intervention of tropical weather systems.
"At the low water reference point of minus 3.5 feet, a safety zone is established in the navigation channel and some restrictions by the United States Coast Guard may be put in place," St. Louis Army Corps of Engineers Public Affairs Chief Mike Peterson said in July. "Officials will continue to patrol the river and may undertake dredging operations as necessary to keep channels and ports open."
The river level at St. Louis is forecast to fluctuate between 0.0 and -1.0 feet through much of the balance of August, but could dip lower to critical levels moving into the autumn. Negative readings occur on some of the gauges, because the river bottom has changed since measuring equipment was first put in place.
Due to the low river levels, barges operating in open areas of the Mississippi will continue to voluntarily carry lighter loads in attempts to avoid running aground. The lighter loads mean less profit for the barge companies, while some cargo may be shipped by more expensive means such as by truck or rail.
This story was originally published on Thursday, July 5, 2012 and has been updated. Content contributed by AccuWeather staff writer Grace Muller.
Warmer air will build from California to Washington on Monday and Tuesday raising temperatures to near-record levels.
Waves of arctic air invading the eastern half of the United States this week will culminate with the coldest weather of the season so far for some areas by the second weekend of February.
The new week will bring more opportunities for snow to create slick travel in the northeastern United States, starting with a winter storm set to sideswipe New England on Monday.
As the first of several waves of arctic air sweep southeastward across the Midwest, just enough snow will occur to cause slippery travel over a broad area into Monday.
A magnitude-6.4 earthquake shook southern Taiwan shortly before 4 a.m. local time on Saturday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Vega, TX (1956)
61 inches of snow fell from one storm (Feb 1-8) State record for a single storm and for a month.
Snowstorm, worst of season. 12-18 inches in the western mountains . . . a foot common statewide up to 24 inches in the mountains of Vermont, between Bristol and Waitsfield. 16 inches in other mountain areas, 12-14 inches in valleys, 14 inches at Albany, NY and 10 inches at Plattsburgh, NY.
Chicago, FL (1987)
Wind gusts of 65-70 mph from the north and northeast produced 15 foot waves on Lake Michigan. There were extensive shoreline erosion resulting in millions of dollars, and boulders 6 feet in diameter were pushed on shore.