JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Rain from the remnants of Hurricane Isaac could help the drought-stricken Mississippi River, but experts say it’s not enough for long-term relief for the vital waterway that is at its lowest level since 1988.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is trying to keep barge traffic flowing on the essential commerce route. Hundreds of millions of tons of goods, from grain to gasoline, are shipped on the river every year and any disruption has the potential for affecting consumers here and abroad.
Marty Pope, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Jackson, said Wednesday that Isaac dumped rain on areas that feed the lower Mississippi, but it’s too little water to bring the river back to normal levels for this time of year. Still, he said any relief helps and Isaac kept the river from falling even more.
“It’s not going to be huge, but it’s going to be some. Right now some is good,” Pope said.
Isaac made landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River in Louisiana as a Category 1 hurricane last week. Meteorologists said the storm dumped 10 to 15 inches of rain on parts of Mississippi, but it produced less rain as it moved north, with parts of Arkansas getting 2-6 inches. The remnants continue to produce rain in spots from the Midwest and farther east on Wednesday, but far less than early on.
The rain over Mississippi and Louisiana doesn’t help the lower Mississippi much because the river is fed by the third-largest watershed in the world, and much of that area is in the Midwest and into Canada.
The river could rise as much as 2 feet at Vicksburg, Miss., a key gauge, in the coming weeks, “but it’s going to start going down again if we don’t get more rain,” said Kavanaugh Breazeale, a corps spokesman.
“Basically, it’s a Band-Aid for a gashing wound,” he said.
Forecasters expect more normal river levels won’t return until October.
Breazeale said a huge dredge is working around the clock near Greenville, Miss., to keep the shipping channel open at a spot where barges have run aground. Groundings have forced the Coast Guard to temporarily close the river to barge traffic, and that can cost the shipping industry millions of dollars.
The low water level also causes barges to carry lighter loads and that is another hit to the shipping industry. In a good year, barges can ship up to 500 million tons of goods up and down the river, including 60 percent of the grain grown in the U.S. This year, though, has been a challenge.
The corps has its own dredges clearing channels and has awarded contracts to private businesses to dredge ports. But rain far to the north is vital to having a sustainable water level on the lower Mississippi, and that part of the country has been gripped by drought this year.
The last time the river was this low, one estimate put barge industry losses at $1 billion.
Follow Holbrook Mohr on Twitter at
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- The best places to celebrate Fall in Phoenix
- Infamous athletes who did the most time for their crimes
- 2016 baseball highlights, bloopers and blunders
- See how CFOs really feel about business in the Valley
- The best television shows on the internet
- A preseason guide to avoid holiday weight gain
- The 5 worst things you could do for your roof
- 6 coolest things brewing in Arizona
- The virus that keeps head and neck cancers on the rise
- State Fair ‘Kid Reporter’ has all the angles covered
- 4 important things to know about timeshare maintenance fees
- Signs of delayed car crash injuries
- The truth about sports concussions
- The Alzheimer's epidemic: Facts you need to know
- The season is here, keep your Fantasy Football team strong all season
- 8 TV shows you can't miss this fall
- Football is here: 6 tips to make this your best season ever
- Gameday recipes and beers to match
- 6 reasons the Cardinals are driven to win the Super Bowl
- The Pac-12 football season nears kickoff
- Tips to get ready for a pain-free golf season
- Protect your family with these 7 home security features
- How to train like an Olympic swimmer
- 2016 Olympics: A guide to must-see TV events
- The bride's guide to feeling your best on your wedding day
- Deciding when you need knee surgery
- Celebrating Fourth of July is much cooler in these AZ towns
- Top ten road trip bathrooms in America
- Six things causing a pain in your neck
- 5 things to make your summer move easier