Rising Mississippi closes locks and dams

Rising Mississippi closes locks and dams

Upper Mississippi River locks and dams have been closed due to record rainfall in June.

A series of late June thunderstorms that hit the northern Corn Belt continued to cause issues last week after swelling rivers, particularly the upper Mississippi, caused the closure of several locks and dams.

“Excessive rainfall, in some cases near a foot over the past month, has pushed the upper Mississippi River past flood stage from Minnesota and Wisconsin to Iowa, Illinois and northern Missouri,” said Alex Sosnowski, expert senior meteorologist for AccuWeather.com.

Harry Hillaker, state climatologist for the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship said most of the rain received in June fell in three events from Sunday, June 22 to Monday, June 30. The heaviest rains fell during the second event from the morning of June 26 to the afternoon of June 27, with Dallas County and Story County receiving 5.45 inches and 5.40 inches of rain, respectively.

“Weekly rain totals varied from 0.17 inches at Lester in Lyon County to 7.60 inches at Maxwell” added Hillaker. “The statewide average precipitation was 2.22 inches or nearly double the weekly normal of 1.17 inches.” 

The statewide average precipitation for June 2014 in Illinois was also high with 6.78 inches of rain falling through the month, 2.58 inches above average and the 8th wettest June on record.

“Much of the Corn Belt was wetter than average for June (Figure 1) with precipitation departures from average in the range of 6 to 10 inches,” reported Jim Angel, Illinois state climatologist. “That’s more than double the average in many locations. The results are high flows on many rivers and streams and flooding along the main stem of the Mississippi River south of Dubuque, IA.”

A representative for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Rock Island District confirmed that the rising Mississippi had caused the closure of several locks and dams along the Mississippi.

“By the 4th, we are expecting that all of them will be closed. Right now, the only ones that have been closed are 16, 17 and 18 and lock and dam 12 and 20,” he added. It could be one to two weeks before the locks and dams would be able to be re-opened.

National Weather Service hydrologists said it didn’t expect levels to drop below flood stage until early July.

Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Council, said the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers had told him they may close up to 11 locks and dams, if necessary. He said that while his organization is monitoring the situation, it isn’t a crucial time for soy transportation.

“Eighty percent of exports occur between September and February, so while there are certainly exports still occurring, the main export season has past so the problem isn’t having as detrimental of an impact on the soybean industry if it would have happened after harvest season,” said Steenhoek. “But still, it is something that is of concern to us, that we’re certainly monitoring, and that will result in diversion of traffic onto rail and truck.”

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