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Flooding hinders shipping on the Mississippi River

 Members of the Louisiana National Guard build Hesco baskets in preparation for expected flooding from the opening of the Morganza Spillway in Krotz S...
 Members of the Louisiana National Guard build Hesco baskets in preparation for expected flooding from the opening of the Morganza Spillway in Krotz S...
 Workers reinforce Hesco baskets in preparation for expected flooding from the opening of the Morganza Spillway, in Krotz Springs, La., Tuesday, May 1...
 Workers reinforce Hesco baskets in preparation for expected flooding from the opening of the Morganza Spillway, in Krotz Springs, La., Tuesday, May 1...
 Carla Jenkins, partially visible in center with dog, owner of Vidalia Dock and Storage, surveys the damage to her business with family and employees ...
 A business outside the levee south of Vicksburg, Miss., is surrounded by Mississippi river floodwaters Tuesday, May 17, 2011. The Coast Guard said it...
 Tugboat owner Jerry Vatson walks across a makeshift walkway from a barge where his boat is anchored, to land, amidst rising floodwater from the Missi...
 Water from the Mississippi River roars through the Old River Control Structure towards the Atchafalaya Basin in Concordia Parish, La., Tuesday, May 1...
 Carla Jenkins, partially visible in center with dog, owner of Vidalia Dock and Storage, surveys the damage to her business with family and employees ...
 A shed is seen under water at the Vidalia Dock and Storage, as floodwaters from the rising Mississippi flood the buildings, in Vidalia, La., Tuesday,...
 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel look over sandbags along the rising Mississippi River shore in Natchez, Miss., Wednesday, May 18, 2011. (AP Ph...
 Flood victim Vivian Taylor-Wells sits on a cot at a Red Cross shelter in Vicksburg, Miss., Wednesday, May 18,  2011. Forced from her home a week ago ...
 Debris floats in floodwaters surrounding the Bethlehem MB Church in Vicksburg, Miss., Wednesday, May 18,  2011. Floodwaters from the Mississippi rive...
 Deputy Mike Traxler views flooded homes in Vicksburg, Miss., Wednesday, May 18,  2011. Floodwaters from the Mississippi river are expected to crest i...
 A submerged mailbox stands ready for deliveries in front of a flooded home in Vicksburg, Miss., Wednesday, May 18,  2011.  Floodwaters from the Missi...
 Fireman Donald Carter manuevers past flooded homes in Vicksburg, Miss., Wednesday, May 18,  2011. Floodwaters from the Mississippi river are expected...

Mississippi River Flooding

Members of the Louisiana National Guard build Hesco baskets in preparation for expected flooding from the opening of the Morganza Spillway in Krotz S...

Mississippi River Flooding

Members of the Louisiana National Guard build Hesco baskets in preparation for expected flooding from the opening of the Morganza Spillway in Krotz S...

APTOPIX Mississippi River Flooding

Workers reinforce Hesco baskets in preparation for expected flooding from the opening of the Morganza Spillway, in Krotz Springs, La., Tuesday, May 1...

Mississippi River Flooding

Workers reinforce Hesco baskets in preparation for expected flooding from the opening of the Morganza Spillway, in Krotz Springs, La., Tuesday, May 1...

Mississippi River Flooding

Carla Jenkins, partially visible in center with dog, owner of Vidalia Dock and Storage, surveys the damage to her business with family and employees ...

Mississippi River Flooding

A business outside the levee south of Vicksburg, Miss., is surrounded by Mississippi river floodwaters Tuesday, May 17, 2011. The Coast Guard said it...

Mississippi River Flooding

Tugboat owner Jerry Vatson walks across a makeshift walkway from a barge where his boat is anchored, to land, amidst rising floodwater from the Missi...

Mississippi River Flooding

Water from the Mississippi River roars through the Old River Control Structure towards the Atchafalaya Basin in Concordia Parish, La., Tuesday, May 1...

Mississippi River Flooding

Carla Jenkins, partially visible in center with dog, owner of Vidalia Dock and Storage, surveys the damage to her business with family and employees ...

APTOPIX Mississippi River Flooding

A shed is seen under water at the Vidalia Dock and Storage, as floodwaters from the rising Mississippi flood the buildings, in Vidalia, La., Tuesday,...

Mississippi River Flooding

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel look over sandbags along the rising Mississippi River shore in Natchez, Miss., Wednesday, May 18, 2011. (AP Ph...

APTOPIX Mississippi River Flooding

Flood victim Vivian Taylor-Wells sits on a cot at a Red Cross shelter in Vicksburg, Miss., Wednesday, May 18, 2011. Forced from her home a week ago ...

Mississippi River Flooding

Debris floats in floodwaters surrounding the Bethlehem MB Church in Vicksburg, Miss., Wednesday, May 18, 2011. Floodwaters from the Mississippi rive...

Mississippi River Flooding

Deputy Mike Traxler views flooded homes in Vicksburg, Miss., Wednesday, May 18, 2011. Floodwaters from the Mississippi river are expected to crest i...

Mississippi River Flooding

A submerged mailbox stands ready for deliveries in front of a flooded home in Vicksburg, Miss., Wednesday, May 18, 2011. Floodwaters from the Missi...

Mississippi River Flooding

Fireman Donald Carter manuevers past flooded homes in Vicksburg, Miss., Wednesday, May 18, 2011. Floodwaters from the Mississippi river are expected...

Cargo is slowly moving along the bloated Mississippi River after a costly daylong standstill, while officials keep an eye on the lower Delta where thousands of acres of farmland could be swamped by water that is inching closer to the top of a backwater levee.
The Coast Guard for much of Tuesday closed a 15-mile stretch at Natchez, Mississippi, north of New Orleans, blocking vessels heading toward the Gulf of Mexico and others trying to return north after dropping off their freight.
Barges that haul coal, timber, iron, steel and more than half of America's grain exports were allowed to pass, but at the slowest possible speed. Such interruptions could cost the U.S. economy hundreds of millions of dollars for each day the barges are idled, as the toll from the weeks of flooding from Arkansas to Louisiana continues to mount.
Wakes generated by passing barge traffic could increase the strain on levees designed to hold back the river, officials said. Late Tuesday, barges were able to move again at the lowest possible speed, the costs of the slowdown hard to calculate.
Natchez Mayor Jake Middleton said he met Monday with Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh and other officials when they discussed the river closing, the latest tough move to try to ensure the levees are not breached.
"You have two hospitals, a convention center, a hotel and a spa on the Louisiana side. On our side, we have a restaurant and bar and several very old, historic buildings that we are trying to save," Middleton said.
Coast Guard Cmdr. Mark Moland said tests indicated sandbagging and other measures to protect most of the area could withstand the wakes if the vessels were ordered to move through at the slowest possible speed. It's not clear how long barges would only be able to move one at a time. The river is expected to stay high in some places for weeks.
Throughout the spring, the Mississippi is a highway for barges laden with corn, soybeans and other crops headed from the Midwest to ports near New Orleans, where they get loaded onto massive grain carriers for export around the world. The closure helped push corn, wheat and soybean prices higher Tuesday.
Traders, however, are more worried that flooded acreage won't be replanted with corn, said John Sanow, an analyst with DTN Telvent.
On a typical day, some 600 barges move back and forth along the Mississippi, with a single vessel carrying as much cargo as 70 tractor-trailers or 17 rail cars, according to Bob Anderson, spokesman for the Mississippi Valley Division of the Army Corps of Engineers.
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Sayre reported from New Orleans. Associated Press writers Brian Schwaner in New Orleans; Scott Mayerowitz in New York, Christopher Leonard in St. Louis and Sheila Byrd in Jackson contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-01-16 10:48 GMT+08:00