Rising river levels close locks, dams

Rising river levels close locks, dams
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 River, caused the closure of several locks and dams.

"Excessive rainfall, in some cases nearly 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 the state received in June fell in three events over June 22-30.

The heaviest rains fell during the second event, which lasted from the morning of June 26 to the afternoon of June 27, with Dallas and Story counties of Iowa receiving 5.45 in. and 5.40 in. of rain, respectively.

"Weekly rain totals (in Iowa) varied from 0.17 in. at Lester in Lyon County to 7.60 in. at Maxwell," Hillaker added. "The statewide average precipitation was 2.22 in., or nearly double the weekly normal of 1.17 in."

The statewide average precipitation for June in Illinois was also high, with 6.78 in. of rain falling throughout the month — 2.58 in. above average and the eighth-wettest June on record.

"Much of the Corn Belt was wetter than average for June (Map), with precipitation departures from average in the range of 6-10 in.," Jim Angel, Illinois state climatologist, reported. "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, Iowa."

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

"By the Fourth (of July), 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 & Dam 12 and 20," he added.

It could be one to two weeks before the locks and dams are able to be reopened.

National Weather Service hydrologists said they didn't expect river levels to drop below flood stage until early July.

Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, said the Corps had told him it may close up to 11 locks and dams, if necessary. He said while his organization is monitoring the situation, it isn't a crucial time for soy transportation currently.

"Eighty percent of exports occur between September and February, so while there are certainly exports still occurring, the main export season has passed, so the problem isn't having as detrimental of an impact on the soybean industry as if it would have happened after harvest season," Steenhoek said. "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."

Volume:86 Issue:27

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