Upper Mississippi Falling In Places But More Rain Coming

The story of the Floods of 2019 is not over. Gauges are dropping on some parts of the Mississippi River, but most places remain above flood stage. A new round of storms over the Midwest that could drop between 3 and 8 inches of rain in the Upper Mississippi River basin was forecast by the National Weather Service May 16, bringing further uncertainty.

As river levels were falling in St. Paul, Minn., some reports indicated severe shoaling issues.

The Coast Guard reopened St. Louis Harbor at 6 a.m. on May 15. The harbor had been closed from Mile 179 to Mile 184 since May 2, due to high water and fast currents. On May 2, the mv. Legacy struck Eads Bridge, shearing off its pilothouse (WJ, May 6).

Dredge Tow Transit

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On May 10, the Coast Guard and Corps of Engineers coordinated an emergency transit through the St. Louis harbor closure zone of the mv. Tate Oglesby and its tow. The Tate Oglesby was towing the dredge Iowa and supporting barges essential to flood recovery efforts in the Omaha, Neb., area to repair critical levees and reopen Interstate 29.

Local harbor boats assisted the transit to ensure safety. “After an unprecedented spring high-water season, it is critical that we facilitate recovery efforts in every way possible while managing public safety,” said Capt. Scott Stoermer, commander of Coast Guard Sector Upper Mississippi River. “Our long-standing government, agency and industry partnerships enable us to do so; this event being a prime example.”

Upper Miss Still Closed

Above St. Louis, the river was still closed at least until May 18, due to significant snowmelt coming down both the Missouri and Upper Mississippi rivers. Lock 24, at Upper Mississippi Mile 273 reopened on May 15. Lock 20 at Upper Mississippi Mile 343, which closed on April 28, was expected to reopen May 16.

The Corps of Engineers cautioned that locks could require up to three days of cleanup time. The degree of shoaling was being assessed at press time and could result in further closures.

The Louisiana, Mo., railroad bridge was projected to reopen May 18, but to close again May 21 as a result of further rain events.

On the Illinois River, Marseilles and Starved Rock locks were open, but heavy rains resulted in delays upriver.

Daylight-only transits on the middle Mississippi through the Thebes bridges south of St. Louis remained in place. Tow sizes remained limited to one string between St. Louis and Cairo, Ill.