Mississippi River
4:59 pm
Wed December 12, 2012

National Weather Service Forecast Calling For Ongoing Problems With River

Mississippi River Basin
Mississippi River Basin
Credit (via NASA/Goddard Conceptual Image Lab)

An updated Mississippi River forecast is predicting that  low-water levels will likely linger throughout the winter.  The forecast exacerbates concerns that shipping may be impacted along a key stretch near St. Louis.

The latest outlook by National Weather Service Hydrologist Mark Fuchs shows that without significant rain, the river at St. Louis will likely fall to dangerously low levels by the end of December

"We are expecting to get down to about -5 by the last week of December, and by the second week in January getting down to about -5.6,” says Fuchs, “…which is getting to within a half foot or so of an all-time record."

A reading of -6 would correspond to a channel depth of roughly 9 feet, at which point barge traffic could be stopped completely.

Likewise the problem of ongoing drought and low water could be further compounded by freezing conditions upstream.

“On top of the low inflow, we’re also dealing with the potential of freezing of the river channel up above St. Louis on both the Missouri and Mississippi,” says Fuchs.  “That’s going to further reduce the amount of inflow that’s coming into the Mississippi this far south.”

The Army Corps of Engineers hopes to explode barge-impeding rock pinnacles on the river south of St. Louis as early as next week.

The lack of water is also being blamed for foul-smelling drinking water in the Metro East.

A spokesperson for Illinois-American Water says crews are working to address the problem, but the water is safe to drink.

Follow Adam Allington on Twitter:  @aallington