Forecast Calls For Rain, River Levels On Rise

Much-needed rain brought some relief to drought-stricken areas along the Lower Mississippi and Ohio river basins over the past week, although dredging and intermittent closures continued. 

The Corps of Engineers dredge Hurley was expected to arrive at Lower Mississippi Mile 838 on November 17, with a 24-hour closure to begin in the evening.

Another trouble spot was at Mile 459, where the Corps dredge Jadwin planned a 12-hour closure beginning at 7 a.m. November 18, said Randy Chamness, co-chairman of the Lower Mississippi River Committee (LOMRC).

While industry has not made any requests for heavier loading drafts, it is turning its attention to several hundred barges that have been waiting at ports, too heavy to move given current loading draft restrictions.

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“What everybody is focused on is trying to flush the heavier barges that have been in overdraft status through the system while we have the extra water,” Chamness said.

With some of the pressure off the Lower Mississippi, Chamness said those in the industry were focusing their attention on the mid-Mississippi, especially with the seasonal navigation flow reduction on the Missouri likely to impact areas south of Cairo, Ill.

Jeff Graschel of the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center reported “significant” rises occurring on the lower Ohio from Hurricane Nicole rainfall.

Middle and eastern portions of the Ohio Valley received 1 to 3 inches of rain. Runoff from that rain generated 8 to 10 feet of rises on the lower Ohio, which was expected to peak on November 18 at 19 feet, 10 feet higher than the previous week’s stages and almost 15 feet higher than at the low-water record set earlier in October.

“The rises from the lower Ohio River are continuing downstream on the Lower Mississippi River,” he said. “The rises are approaching Arkansas City, Ark., and should continue downstream over the next several days.”

Improved Forecasts

Forecasts over the next month showed river stages to be higher in that reach.

The 16-day future rainfall model also showed another rise on the lower Ohio River at the end of November and first week of December.

“This would keep stages elevated through the second week of December and well above modern-day records that occurred in October,” Graschel said.