Mississippi river rising
by Rory Doyle
Jan 20, 2013 | 3970 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Mississippi River, a major route for shipping in the United States, may finally be experiencing relief after months or extremely low water levels.

Recent storms in the Ohio River Valley are contributing to higher levels in Bolivar County and the lower portion of the river.

Friday's U.S. Army Corps of Engineers river gage reading at Arkansas City came in at 19.9 feet, with projections for that level to increase.

At the peak of 2012's drought, Arkansas City measured at -3.21 feet on Aug. 27.

"Maybe we're seeing signs of hope," said Marty Pope, senior service hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson. "Recent rainfall along the Ohio River has produced plenty of water and is the reason we're seeing this crest."

Pope added that in about a week's time local levels should continue to rise after more water works its way southward.

Weather systems in the Ohio River Valley region and along the upper portion of the Mississippi River make the biggest impact on local river stages.

While recent rain in the state of Mississippi makes a small impact, the crest is a result of water coming from the north.

Some areas along the river haven't had experienced favorable weather systems, thus leaving major problems.

"We're still seeing issues on the northern part of the river and in certain places close to St. Louis," added Pope.

Pope is hopeful that a three-month forecast of rainfall in the Ohio Valley could bring the river back closer to normal.

"Looking at the 90-day rainfall forecast, it calls for a better chance of above-normal rainfall in the area," he said. "Of course, this amount could play a big role and provide a little spring relief.

"Based on where we are right now, these are the most positive readings for the Mississippi River we've seen in a long time."

And a recharge to the system is exactly what Port of Rosedale Director Robert Maxwell is looking for.

"We've got some water coming up pretty fast and it's forecasted to go up even higher," said Maxwell. "We're in pretty good shape and back to full loads right now."

While it's good news the water has gone up in Rosedale, Maxwell said it comes at an unfortunate time for local farmers since the busy shipping season has passed.

"It's not the best timing and the drought definitely slowed us down but it didn't shut us down," he said. "At least this water should get us in good shape coming into late winter and early spring."

According to a report from Reuters, the low water has already disrupted the flow of billions of dollars' worth of grain, coal, fertilizer and other commodities between the central U.S. and shipping terminals at the Gulf of Mexico.

At the very least, meteorologists and businesses are enjoying some good news after months of river disruption.

"Long term it's anybody's guess what will happen, but for now we're okay," said Maxwell. "We dodged another bullet."