The worst drought in more than fifty years is having a devastating effect on the mighty Mississippi River. The Mississippi has become very thin and very narrow, and if the water level keeps on dropping, there is a great possibility that all traffic and commerce on the river could shut down.
Several shipping companies are worried that the drought of 1988 may be repeated, a time when the river dried up so much that barge traffic came to a standstill. In 1988 the shipping industry lost $1 billion, a number that would be far higher in 2012 and could be reached in as little as three days.
“It’s getting near critical,” said Austin Golding, a third-generation co-owner of Vicksburg, Miss.-based Golding Barge Lines. “Without more rain, we’re heading into uncharted territory.”
The low water levels mean that barge companies have to lighten their load by about 25 percent so the barges ride higher in the water, reducing what’s known as the barges’ “draught.”
It is very possible that we could see an increase in barge accidents and injuries as well. Boats and barges have been running aground everyday.
If the Mississippi River continues drying up to the point where commercial travel is no longer possible, it would be an absolutely devastating blow to the U.S. economy.
“It looks like a coastline out there,” said Reynold Minsky, president of the 5th Louisiana Levee District board. “There are more beaches on the river than there are in Florida.”
Currently the rainfall needed is nowhere in sight and long range predictions show that the river could drop another 2-3 feet.
Blog post by barge injury lawyer Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP