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Rivers Continue to Rise
Monday, June 29, 2015 12:13PM CDT

By Mary Kennedy
DTN Cash Grains Analyst

When Tropical Storm Bill exited the U.S. on June 21, it left behind rainfall totals of 4 or more inches in eight states: Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas, according to the Weather Channel.

The arrival of Bill caused rivers in Texas and Oklahoma, which were already swollen due to heavy rains that fell over the Memorial Day weekend, to spill over again. Rivers in Missouri and Louisiana also suffered from Bill as flooding covered not only city streets, but farm fields that had just been planted with spring crops or were not yet planted. According to USDA, as of June 21, farmers in Missouri had only planted 51% of their soybeans versus the five-year average of 88% and that only 34% of the soybean crop was rated in good-to-excellent condition.

The National Weather Service issued a flood warning on Saturday, June 27, for the Missouri River at St. Charles. The river there was at 29 feet on Sunday, June 28, and is expected to crest at 30.3 feet Monday afternoon. That would be just over 5 feet above flood stage. (http://goo.gl/…) On June 28, the NWS also issued flood warnings for the Wabash River, which was 22.8 feet at Lafayette, Indiana; moderate flood stage is 20 feet. The NWS said, "At 22.0 feet, extensive flooding is in progress. During agricultural season, extensive crop damage occurs. Flooding will last from two days in central Indiana to the middle of July in southwest Indiana." (http://goo.gl/…)

Besides the stress on soybean crops, the soft red winter crop has suffered as well with diseases caused by too much rain. The CBOT price for soft red winter rose as Missouri, Indiana and Illinois were reported by USDA June 22 to have significant condition declines from the previous week. The front-month nearby Chicago wheat contracts traded to the highest levels seen since early January. For the week ending July 26, the July futures contract gained 73 3/4 cents per bushel in Chicago. Cash basis, on the other hand, was weaker at river facilities affected by the high water with basis 7-10 cents weaker on average.

HIGH WATER LEVELS AFFECTING BARGE MOVEMENT

Just as many rivers had crested, more rain fell during the week of June 22, causing some of the rivers to climb back toward major flood stage. Tom Russell, Russell Marine Group, told DTN in an email that, "Concentrated rains in the already saturated center corridor of the river system were greatly impacting the Illinois River and Upper Mississippi River from Mile 301 at Hannibal, Missouri, to Cairo, Illinois, which were 5-10 feet above flood stage on June 25." The Illinois River levels have prevented a majority of grain facilities from loading grain barges as barges are unable to fit under the loading spout when the river is too high.

Russell said that as of June 26, the Illinois River was basically shut down with nothing moving past Staved Rock area at mile 231 on the river. "The middle Upper Mississippi area has had a recent rise and Lock 22 at mile 301 will be closed for at least a few days due to high water. The Upper Mississippi from St. Louis to Cairo is 5-7 feet above flood stage. Barge traffic is moving from St. Louis to Cairo, albeit very slowly. St. Louis Harbor is very congested due to the slowdowns and restrictions over the past weeks. Tow boats are backing up in the area and in a logistics traffic jam." On Sunday, June 28, the USACE said that the following locks were still closed: Jerry Costello Lock and Dam, Lock 24 and Lock 27 Auxiliary Lock.

On June 25, USDA reported that barge operators are not quoting rates for Illinois River barge services until most loading facilities are operational, which will occur sometime after the crest.

"Barge operators have limited operations in the St. Louis area partly due to accumulations of flood-caused debris that can damage towboats and barges. In addition, tows of barges greater than 600 feet are restricted to daylight-only passage while the St. Louis gauge is greater than 25 feet," USDA reported.

As of Sunday, June 28, the St. Louis gauge was at 38.8 feet and is expected to reach 40 feet by June 30, and so far is forecast not to be lower than 28 feet until July 6. (http://goo.gl/…)

Russell added, "The Arkansas River, which had been above flood stage, is falling and navigation is starting to move during daylight only south of mile 348. Traffic above mile 348 is closed due to shoaling. A dredge is being called in to clean up the shoaling but will probably take three to four weeks for the northern area of the river to open. The Lower Mississippi is high and will remain high at least for another four weeks as the upper rivers run off. Barge traffic is moving fairly well in that area."

Russell said that the center river areas will be in a high-water situation for at least the next seven to 10 days if there are no more significant rain events. "The forecast in these areas does call for more rain over the next week to 10 days. The amounts of rain and effect will have to be monitored."

Mary Kennedy can be reached at mary.kennedy@dtn.com

Follow Mary Kennedy on Twitter @MaryCKenn

(AG/SK)


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