Midwest Supplies Hindered by Floods Resulting in Stalling of Barges


According to an article published in STI Today, hundreds of barges are stalled on the Mississippi River, because of strong winds, snow, rainstorms and flooding.

What happened?

The Lock and Dam 17 on the Mississippi River is flooded resulting in the closure of the Rail routes and highways.

Hundreds of barges are stalled, clogging the main circulatory system for a farm-belt economy battered by a relentless, record-setting string of snow, rainstorms and flooding

The much needed farm supplies are kept intact and export of crops to market has been kept at a minimum.

Quickest means to deliver supplies

Chris Boerm, the person who manages transportation for Archer Daniels Midland Co., stated, “Weather is an unyielding, ever-changing challenge”.

Along with his colleagues, Boerm work to devise the quickest way to get supplies to people in need, inspire of the heavy downpour.

Floods affecting the supply transport

The continuous rainfall makes the transport of supplies difficult, said Boerm. So, the supplies which were supposed to be on one route will have to be rerouted to a different route or offloaded onto a rail car or a truck.

For instance, when the water reaches the wheel bearings on a freight car in a siding, it can’t be hauled long distances without an inspection, yet another potential delay.

Barges stalled at Mississippi

According to Waterways Council Inc., close to 300 barges are being held along the upper Mississippi, because of high water and fast currents.

A significant number of barges are also stationed at St. Louis; Cairo, Illinois; and Memphis, Tennessee, said Deb Calhoun, the council’s senior vice president. He also said that this would be a big challenge.

Deluge following the rain

Don Keeney, senior agricultural meteorologist at Maxar in Gaithersburg, said that even though the rain will ease in the next few days across the central U.S., it will be followed by the deluge.

The National Weather Service reported that a total of 203 points along U.S. rivers were prone to flood, with the majority being on the Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri rivers and their tributaries.

The Mississippi at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is forecast to rise about another foot this week, coming within two feet of its record crest in 1927.

Increase in toxicity along the river bank

High waters, apart from stalling barges, also carry other dangers. Floodwaters have led to the closing of  interstate highways.

The water itself can overwhelm farm fields, sewer and septic systems and industrial plants along its banks, which can become toxic as it flows away from river beds.

200% plus rainfall along the Mississippi

“We dealt with a wet fall, and then record snowfall in many places,” said Tim Eagleton, senior engineering specialist for FM Global. He said that there was a 200%-plus rainfall over a large part of that basin for months and this has shut down 200 miles of the Mississippi.

Misfortune condition of the farmers

Farmers are majorly affected. Iowa corn farmer Bob Hemesath had planned to deliver about 20,000 bushels of corn to a Bunge Ltd. facility in McGregor in March and April. Instead, he ended up sending the grain to a local ethanol plant because the other facility was closed due to high water levels. He owns a farm 35 miles west of the Mississippi River in Decorah.

The soybean farmers, in his neighborhood, are waiting to send their crops down shore too. The U.S.-China trade war, slow demand and slumping prices have already prevented the U.S. farmers from selling the 2018 harvest. And now with the shutting down of the traffic, the farmers are extremely worried about the barge backlog this fall.

The flood of 1993

Boerm mentioned that the flood has affected the entire Mississippi, the Arkansas River, the Illinois River and the Ohio River, when compared to ’93 flood which was only concentrated in Iowa and the upper Midwest.

The exact damage cannot be assumed until the waters recede, which will not happen any time sooner according to Jeff Graschel, service coordination hydrologist with the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center in Slidell, Louisiana. He said some of the affected areas will be below flood in a couple of months.

Aftermath of the flood

There will be a considerable set back in the economy this year, said Jon Davis, chief meteorologist with RiskPulse, a weather analytics firm in Chicago. The traffic would become uncomfortable when crops that have been sowed late in the season gets transported. According to Davis, the longevity and the spread of the flood has made this unique.

There is a lag in the Corn and soybean planting, as a result the grain shipments on the Mississippi, Arkansas and Ohio Rivers have significantly reduced compared to the previous years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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Source: Stltoday


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