Photos show the Mississippi River is so low it’s grounding barges, disrupting the supply chain and revealing a 19th-century shipwreck

Photos show the Mississippi River is so low it’s grounding barges, disrupting the supply chain and revealing a 19th-century shipwreck

a man sits on a rock watching people walk across the open riverbed to a large rock island in the Mississippi River

Randy Statler sits on a rock and watches as people walk to Tower Rock, an attraction normally surrounded by the Mississippi River and accessible only by boat, in Perry County, Missouri, on October 19, 2022.Jeff Roberson/AP Photo

  • The Mississippi River retreats to an all-time low in the middle drought across the midwest.

  • Barges get stuck on sandbars and are forced to reduce their cargo, disrupting the ship’s critical route.

  • The low water also discovered human remains in the 19th century shipwreck.

Mississippi River waters have dropped to historic lows, causing a crisis for shipping and industry in the heartland of the US.

The Mississippi is a major channel for shipping and tourism, flowing from northern Minnesota down the plains of the Midwest and emptying through Louisiana, with numerous tributaries running east and west. All that boat-based trade relies on the river’s deep waters, which can accommodate heavy vessels carrying cargo such as soybeans, corn, fertilizer and oil, or passengers on cruise ships.

a tug towing five barges floats under a bridge in low river waters with exposed earth banks

A barge tug sails past the open banks of the Mississippi River in Vicksburg, Louisiana on October 11, 2022.Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo

However, in the last month the water has receded so low that boats are getting stuck in the mud and sandbars at the bottom of the river. The Coast Guard has instituted new restrictions on how small boats and barges can sit in the water. The cost of shipping goods along the river has skyrocketed, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) began emergency dredging to deepen the river at more than a dozen key bottlenecks, where about 2,000 barges were backed up.

while full of boats lie on the mud with the receding river waters in the background

Boats rest in the mud at Mud Island Marina as water on the Mississippi River continues to recede in Memphis, Tennessee on October 19, 2022.Scott Olson/Getty Images

“This is the heaviest we’ve seen in our industry in recent history,” said Mike Ellis, CEO of American Commercial Barge Line CNBC On Wednesday.

“It’s a significant impact on our supply chain,” Ellis said, adding: “We can’t get goods there.”

The water receded so much that it was revealed human remains and a 200-year-old shipwreck along the new banks of the river. There are people in Missouri walking across a dry, exposed bed to an island that can normally only be reached by boat.

a man looks at a wooden wreck of a ship on the banks of low river waters

A man walking along the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge, Louisiana stops to look at a shipwreck uncovered by low water on October 17, 2022.Sara Cline/AP Photo

On the Louisiana coast, the river is so low that ocean water from the Gulf of Mexico has begun to push upstream. The USACE is racing to build a 1,500-foot-wide underwater levee to prevent saltwater from creeping further upriver, where it could contaminate drinking water, CNN it was announced on Tuesday. There is already a drinking water advice in effect for the coastal region of Plaquemines Parish.

Drought drains Mississippi River to record low levels

a wheelboat full of windows passes between two low-water bridges on the Mississippi River

A passenger wheel passes between river bridges in Vicksburg, Mississippi on October 11, 2022.Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo

Just a few months ago, the Mississippi River Basin was flooded. This summer, historic rainfall caused flash flooding and overflowing rivers in Kentucky, St. Louis, Missouri, parts of Illinois, and Jackson, Mississippi.

Despite this extreme sporadic rainfall, overall, the Midwest is in an abnormally dry state. The Ohio River Valley and Upper Mississippi do not receive enough rain to feed the giant river.

US Drought Map October 11, 2022

US Drought Monitor

Up and down the Mississippi, water has dropped to levels approaching the record low set in 1988. In Memphis, Tennessee, water fell below that record on Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

“There’s no rain in sight, that’s the bottom line,” Lisa Parker, spokeswoman for the USACE Mississippi Valley Division, told the Journal. “Rivers are just reaching the bottom.”

Scientists must conduct rigorous analysis to attribute each individual event to climate change. However, this year’s extreme conditions of both drought and flooding are in line with what scientists have predicted and observed: Rising global temperatures are causing greater weather variability in the central US, fueling both more severe droughts and one-time rainfall events.

That’s because climate change, fueled by all the greenhouse gases humans have released into the atmosphere, is altering the planet’s water cycle. Rising temperatures increase water evaporation and change the atmospheric and ocean currents that distribute moisture around the world.

Droughts are the unearthing of relics and remnants of the past

wooden remains of a ship in dry land near green grass and trees

The wreckage of a ship rests on the banks of the Mississippi River after it was recently discovered due to low water levels, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on October 17, 2022.Sara Cline/AP Photo

The severe drought along the river is so intense that it has revealed a century-old shipwreck. In early October, low water levels revealed an old sunken ship along the banks of the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Archaeologists believe that these remains are from a ferry that sank in the late 19th or early 20th century, Associated Press registered.

Although this is the first time the ship has been fully exposed, it is not a new discovery. Small parts of the vessel surfaced from shallow waters in the 1990s.

“At that time the vessel was completely full of mud and there was mud all around it, so only the tops of the sides were visible,” Chip McGimsey, Louisiana’s state archaeologist, told the AP. “They had to move a lot of earth just to get into the narrow windows to see the pieces,” McGimsey said.

aerial photo shows a long wooden wreck on the dry banks of a low green river

A shipwreck is exposed along the banks of the Mississippi River due to low water levels in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on October 18, 2022.Stephen Smith/AP Photo

McGimsey thinks it could be the Brookhill Ferry, which carried people and possibly horse-drawn wagons across the Mississippi until it sank in a storm in 1915, according to news reports from the State Times archives.

The receding waters of the river also led to a more gruesome discovery. On Saturday, a Mississippi woman found human remains while searching for rocks on the banks of a drought-stricken river with her family. The remains included a lower jaw, ribs and some unidentified pieces of bone, said Scotty Meredith, Coahoma County’s chief medical examiner. CNN.

“Because these water levels are so low, we knew it was only a matter of time before human remains were found,” said Crystal Foster, the woman who found the remains. WMC.

They are the latest in a series of discoveries to emerge from the receding waters. Over the summer, multiple remains were found in Nevada’s Lake Mead, which had dropped to a historic low due to climate change-induced drought.

But it’s not all bad news. Shrinking bodies of water could be a boon for missing-persons investigators, said Jennifer Byrnes, a consulting forensic anthropologist with the Clark County Coroner’s Office, which looks into Lake Mead deaths.

“The disappearance of the big water will help us, from a forensic perspective,” Byrnes told Insider.

Read the original article at Business Insider

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