Mississippi River could see near-record low levels due to ongoing drought

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ST. LOUIS – With the lack of recent, beneficial rainfall, drought conditions continue across east Missouri and south-central Illinois. It’s had a large effect on the Mississippi River, which could be headed for a near-record low water level.

The current standing for the Mississippi River lies about a foot and a-half below normal value. That level is forecast to reach -5.2 feet by mid-December, which would be the sixth-lowest river level in recorded history.

With rain in the forecast by the end of the workweek, the bulk of the incoming rain this weekend will primarily be centered to the south of St. Louis, which will not effectively help in improving water levels for the Mississippi.

Mark Fuchs, a senior service hydrologist at the National Weather Service, says in order for improved conditions, rainfall needs to start in the northern basin of the Mississippi River to flow south and relieve southern branches in need of more water.

The United States Coast Guard is working with the United States Army Corps of Engineers to conduct dredging operations along the Mississippi River in St. Louis to continue open-channel waterways for barge transportation.

The Coast Guard’s role is to primarily issue warnings and broadcasts to stop or redirect river traffic if channels see a blockage. But the concern about low river levels has prompted weekly meetings between both industries in efforts to take proactive steps to combat this issue.

The Drought Assessment Committee, made up of state and federal agencies like the National Weather Service, will meet in mid-December in Jefferson City to further discuss drought concerns impacting river levels. As of now, the Coast Guard says the river’s traffic along the region’s major waterways is okay, but they’re keeping a close eye on it.


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