Upper Mississippi Crests At Historic Levels

The entire Upper Mississippi River above Mile 343 remained closed to traffic, as high water caused by rain and snowmelt brought the river to its highest levels since 2001. The May 4 lock and dam status updates on the Rock Island Engineer District website reported 10 locks and dams closed and four open between Locks and Dams 11 and 22, but all barge traffic has ceased north of Lock 20 at Canton, Mo. All locks on the Illinois River remained open.

The National Weather Service reported May 3 that the river had crested from Lake City, Minn., to Lock & Dam 10 at Guttenberg, Iowa. Major flood levels were reported from Dubuque, Iowa, to Burlington. Many sites reached a “Top 5” flood condition, with major flood levels at Wabasha, Minn.; Winona, Minn.; Trempeleau, Wis.; and La Crosse, Wis. In Davenport, Iowa, the river crested May 1 at 21.4 feet, slightly lower than forecast. Davenport’s downtown was flooded in 2019 after Hesco flood barriers broke, when levels reached 22.7 feet.

The NWF said it would take until May 10 for most sites to fall below flood stage, and another week for the river to fall back within its banks. Video posted to Facebook from Winona shows flooded campgrounds and motorists fishing from roadsides.

At Guttenberg, Iowa, the last piece of a steel and concrete flood wall was installed at Leach Park, and vehicle traffic was diverted away from the riverfront.

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The Emergency Operations Center at the Rock Island Engineer District was activated April 10 and has been supporting communities along the Mississippi River by providing up-to-date information and teams of trained flood area engineers.

George Stringham, a spokesman for the St. Louis Engineer District, said the district is not anticipating any major impacts or lock closures, because of normal or below normal flows on both the Missouri and Illinois rivers. “While our sister districts upriver have had closures, we don’t anticipate any of our locks will close.”