Drought takes its toll on the Mississippi River, causing shipping disruptions

POSTED: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - 1:00pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - 1:04pm

Low water levels are causing problems along the Mississippi River.

The river is a long way from setting a record low, but Michael Sorrels of water control for the Vicksburg District, says the National Weather Service is forecasting it will go lower.

"It's hovering right around zero. I think our five day forecast is to drop to about zero point two" said Sorrells. "Navigation issues are definitely a concern. Right now we are monitoring river levels every day. We have got survey boats going out on the river to identify any hot spots."

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace says so far the low river has not interfered with recreational boating.

"As far as pleasure craft, it really hasn't affected it that much" said Pace. "Pleasure craft are still able to launch here at the city water front. As long as you are careful, you're okay with the smaller vessels."

The low river is causing problems for people like Patrick Smith of Smith Towing in Vicksburg.

"At one of our companies the water is so low we can't even drive out our vessels to repair them" said Smith. "It is really hampering our ability to do a lot of repair jobs that are waiting in line."

Low water is limiting boats to 30 barges at a time, instead of the normal 40, driving up costs and losing money to the railroads and trucks to haul commodities.

The record low is a minus 7 feet back in 1940, but in modern times it has been as low as minus 1.6 feet in 1988.  

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