It appears barge traffic on the drought-starved Mississippi will keep rolling on the river for now, thanks to weekend rain and snow over the nation’s middle, including Arkansas.
A cold front that moved into Arkansas on Dec. 8-9 stalled, producing lines of storms that brought large hail, a tornado in Lawrence County, and straight-line winds blamed for destroying homes and other buildings in Fulton County. According to the National Weather Service at Little Rock, 24-hour rainfall totals through Sunday morning included 2.25 inches at Hot Springs, 1.52 inches at North Little Rock and 1.3 inches in McCrory.
“It looks like the Mississippi River is coming up 7 feet in the next five days,” said Robert Goodson, Phillips County Extension agent.
The Mississippi River is a key corridor for moving harvested grain and other agricultural products such as fertilizer to and from farmers.
During the last week of November, levels dropped so much that maintaining the 300-foot wide by 9-foot deep navigation channel in the Lower Mississippi would be difficult if significant rain didn’t fall by December 11.
Bob Anderson, chief of public affairs for the Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi Valley Division, said, “We believe the river will be open longer with fewer problems, but the drought may continue till spring.”
Goodson said barges were still leaving the port at Helena about 70 percent full, to allow them to sit higher in the water. “I was on the river Friday (Dec. 7) and they were loading barges to 9 feet, 3 feet short of the maximum of 12 feet.”
According to the Corps of Engineers report on Dec. 5, Osceola in Mississippi County and Phillips County Harbor were open. Yellow Bend, at Arkansas City, was running at less than 11 feet, but open.
For more information about droughtsee here or contact your county Extension office.