Despite snowmelt, river level continues to drop

Monday, December 31, 2012

Weather-watchers who predicted last week that post-Christmas snowmelt would lead to a small rise in the rapidly falling levels of the Mississippi River haven't seen it yet, according to Sunday river readings.

Meteorologists on Dec. 27 said any boost from snow runoff would be slight and wouldn't come for four to five days. The news, while welcomed by shippers who do business on the nation's busiest waterway, was tempered by warnings that barge traffic could come to a halt as early as this week.

Water levels are low along the length of the river, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the worst stretch is from St. Louis to Cairo, Ill.

On Sunday, the reading at a gauge in Thebes, Ill., stood at 4.41 feet at about 4 p.m. and had dropped nearly six inches in the previous 24 hours, according to the corps' St. Louis district. In Cape Girardeau on Sunday, the river was at 5.8 feet and also had fallen about six inches.

The river forecast only grows more grim as it is supposed to fall to 5.3 feet by Friday.

The corps last week tried to combat the drought-stricken river by releasing water from a Southern Illinois lake to aid river transportation, according to The Associated Press.

The corps has not confirmed shippers' forecast about the potential for closure.

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