Flooding conditions along the Mississippi River, brought on by the warming of massive quantities of snow to hit the Midwest over the winter, are expected to cause transportation issues into next week.

On Monday, the American Commercial Barge Line said it had “no boats engaged” north of St. Louis on the upper Mississippi River “due to the flooding conditions and lock closures.” 

National Weather Service Hydrologist Matt Wilson says a stretch of above-freezing temperatures caused the snowpack to melt quicker than usual this spring. 

“When a snowpack is 32 degrees, all it's doing is melting out water. We went from having that six to 10-plus inches of snow water equivalent all melted out in about a 72- to 96-hour period,” Wilson said. “Then it started rushing the streams and now it's making its way downstream to us here in Iowa and Illinois.”

The National Weather Service predicts the river will crest in the Dubuque, Iowa, area early next week and continue downriver. ACBL said it expects Lock 17 in southern Iowa could be delayed in its reopening until May 15.

The closures will particularly impact northbound fertilizer shipments, which he said were beginning to recover after supply chain issues in recent years. 

USDA estimates about 2.4 million tons of fertilizer were delivered during the first 12 weeks of 2023.

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“In many of the northern areas of the Midwest, temperatures have remained cold, which results in the ground behaving more like a tabletop versus a sponge when the snow melts or rainfall occurs,” said Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition. “Water is therefore expedited to streams and rivers.” 

Steenhoek tells Agri-Pulse river crests have been observed in northern portions of the Mississippi River, and “much of the water is still migrating south — hence we will see river crests in the upcoming days.” When exactly various points on the river will crest will depend on the possibility of additional regional precipitation, he added.

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