I think it’s safe to say that most of us have a love/hate relationship with Mother Nature. When the weather is great (which in my world that looks like 78, sunny and no humidity!), we love Mother Nature. But when the weather is not so great - snow storms (especially those in mid-April when it’s supposed to be spring), tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. - that love quickly turns to hate.
Many people and industries are affected when the weather takes a turn for the worse and the barge transportation world is no different. According to US Army Corp of Engineers, of the 25,000 miles of inland, intracoastal and coastal waterways and channels in the United States, approximately 12,000 miles constitute the commercially active inland and intracoastal waterway system maintained by the Corps. That’s a whole lotta miles that are affected when rainfall comes too fast and too furiously. When massive rainfalls cause the rivers to reach flood stages and beyond, the tows are at risk as the water starts to flow too quickly for safe transport. The locks and dams are not able to operate due to the water flowing over its sides.
From the last week of February to the middle of March 2018, flooding across the the United States was making headlines (and causing headaches) for the historic water levels.
In Morris, IL, which sits about 25 miles southwest of Joliet on the Illinois River, the river measured at 22.14 feet which is more than six feet above flood level.
The Ohio River crested in the Cincinnati area at 60.53 feet making it the 22nd worst flood according to the National Weather Service.
On the Lower Mississippi River, the river crested at 39.5 feet, or more than five feet above flood stage, at the Memphis gauge.
At Baton Rouge, the Lower Mississippi River peaked at 43.78 feet which is now their 9th highest crest.
In some areas, tows were forced to idle on the side of the river as they were unable to pass under the bridges due to bridge clearance issues. When those barges sit idle, sometimes weeks at a time, the buyer of the product doesn’t receive their product on time which then puts a strain on their projects. The barge lines are also strained as they rely on having those barges emptied so they can place them for another load. According to an Operations Manager from the Army Corps of Engineers, the cost of the river closures can be upwards of $1 million per day.
With all the rain and snow causing these historic high waters and floods, I think we all can appreciate the sunshine and blue skies a little bit more.