Heavy rains impact barge traffic, crops

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was expecting rising flood waters to make 11 locks and dams impassable on the mid- and upper-Mississippi River and force the closure of the river from Bellevue, Iowa, to Saverton, Mo.

At least 80 barge tows are expected to be affected by the closure, which would be the most extensive on that portion of the River since 2008. Rains caused extensive flooding last week in parts of Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas. The rising waters prompted lock closures in Minneapolis and St. Paul, which prevented barges from being loaded and slowed the transportation of grain and other commodities.

An article on AccuWeather.com by senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski reports that “high water will continue to impact communities and barge operations along the upper Mississippi River… as more rain moves into the area. 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.”

For the last several weeks, Minnesota has had crops underwater and many roads have been closed. It is estimated that the Minnesota has sustained flood damage in at least 40 of the state’s 87 counties, and according to state officials, the first five counties to assess the destruction reported $32 million in losses so far to roads, bridges and other public facilities.

Nearly a week ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that 53 percent of the state’s farm fields “have surplus topsoil moisture, and 49 percent have surplus subsoil moisture, and that was before the additional rains over the holiday weekend.

 “Conditions declined for all crops during the week as a result of excess moisture and standing water,” the report said. “Many farmers have been unable to get equipment into their fields, delaying fertilizer and chemical application. Crops are in the ground, but 35 percent of the corn and 41 percent of soybeans are in very poor, poor, or fair condition

The Associated Press reported that Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton declared a State of Emergency for 35 of the state's 87 counties last week due to the magnitude of anticipated flooding, according to the Associated Press. Gov. Dayton is seeking federal flood assistance for Minnesota.

According to an article by Tom Meersman of the Twin Cities’ Star Tribune, Kathryn Sarnecki, vice president of redevelopment of harbor operations at the St. Paul Port Authority says that high water is topping docks, flooding access roads and preventing operations at two of our facilities.

“While water levels receding to 17 feet at St. Paul [flood stage] will allow more normal operations, even a drop of a couple of feet from current levels will help a great deal,” Sarnecki said in the article.

With the additional rain over the weekend, we can expect more reports of flooding in the coming weeks.

Sightseers check out the flooding at the Harriet Island pavilion which was surrounded by the rising flood waters of the Mississippi River, Tuesday, June 24, 2014, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

It will be days and weeks in some cases before upper Mississippi River levels drop below flood stage.

National Weather Service hydrologists stated that a crest of 20.13 feet occurred at St. Paul, Minnesota, on Thursday, but it will not be until early July before levels drop below flood stage. The link provided shows an excellent map illustrating the extent and location of the flooding in the Midwest.

"While water levels receding to 17 feet at St. Paul [flood stage] will allow more normal operations, even a drop of a couple of feet from current levels will help a great deal," Sarnecki said.

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