Mississippi River rises; debris chokes channel

News-DemocratJune 10, 2014 

River Shipping

A barge powers its way up the Mississippi River. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

JEFF ROBERSON — AP

Persistent rainfall has caused the Mississippi River to rise rapidly over the last week, choking the channel with driftwood and other debris lifted from the bank by rising waters.

On Thursday, the river was at 16.5 feet in St. Louis. But by Tuesday it was at 23.3 feet and rising. That level is well below the 30-foot flood stage at St. Louis. But the water is much higher a little bit upstream.

"We did hit flood stage briefly at Lock and Dam 24 near Clarksville this morning," U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Mike Petersen said Tuesday. "But that crested and it looks like it's coming down a little bit."

Petersen said the Mississippi has greater capacity at St. Louis, so the water coming down stream won't necessarily equate to flooding here. But he said the sudden surge of water has caused a problem with driftwood and other floating debris moving into the river channel.

"It's a hazard to navigation and can cause other problems," Petersen said of the large clumps of trees and garbage that gets in the waterway. He said the mess can jam up locks and water intakes and make it difficult for barge tows and other boats to maneuver.

If the St. Louis area doesn't get a large amount of rain over the rest of the week, the National Weather Service calls for river levels to decrease back to the 16-foot level in a week.

A slight chance of thunderstorms is predicted for Wednesday, when the high will be 77. There is a 20 percent chance of rough weather during the day. Skies will become partly cloudy overnight.

On Thursday the forecast again calls for a 20 percent chance of storms with a high of 84.

Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at swuerz@bnd.com or call 618-239-2626.

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