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Flooding Moves South to Gulf; CME Declares Force Majeure on Illinois River

Mary Kennedy
By  Mary Kennedy , DTN Basis Analyst
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This photo taken by NASA's Terra Satellite on Jan. 4 shows the swollen Mississippi River and its tributaries. (Photo courtesy of

As the swollen Mississippi River leaves behind a sizable path of property destruction and tragic loss of human lives and livestock in Missouri and southern Illinois, floodwaters are heading farther south to the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns and farmland along the way.

In the flood's wake, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said in several news releases this week that, "Some communities have actually been hit harder than the '93 flood."

Backing up Gov. Rauner's statement, NASA said this week that on Jan. 1, 2016, the Mississippi River crested at its third-highest level on record for St. Louis. "By Jan. 2, the surge of water caused the highest flood on record at Cape Girardeau and Thebes, south of St. Louis," NASA said. "At Cape Girardeau, water levels peaked at 48.86 feet (14.89 meters). Above 32 feet is considered flood stage; above 42 feet is major flooding. The previous record was 48.50 feet."

As flood waters receded somewhat along the middle stretch of the Mississippi River this week, some portions of the river began to reopen to shipping traffic. Tom Russell, Russell Marine Group, told DTN, St. Louis to Cairo reopened Jan. 4, although it was something of a gridlock. "The Illinois River is still closed and is expected to open by the end of the week."

Due to the Illinois River still being closed through mile 100, the CME said in a Jan. 4 press release that beginning immediately and until further notice, CBOT was declaring force majeure for soybean shipping stations "as a majority of the facilities on the Illinois River are unable to load due to high water levels and/or flooding." To read CME Group's full statement, visit:…

Russell said that as the water moves south, "The Lower Mississippi River remains open, but many loading terminals cannot load due to high water. NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) Harbor is open and all terminals are open, but slow going and safety protocols in place."

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced its plans for managing floodwaters along the Lower Mississippi River.

The Corps said in a press release, "Flood stage in Vicksburg (Mississippi) is 43 feet, and current predictions from the National Weather Service take the river at Vicksburg to 52.5 feet on Jan. 15. Flood stage in New Orleans is 17.0 feet, and current NWS predictions have forecast the river to crest at 17.0 feet on Jan. 9.

"Current NWS forecasts indicate that the Mississippi River could reach the project-design flow of 1.25 million cubic feet per second (cfs), coinciding with a 17-foot stage, in the greater New Orleans area. If this flow occurs, the Corps has the capability to regulate the amount of water flowing through the city by operating the Bonnet Carre Spillway to safely divert up to 250,000 cfs of water into Lake Pontchartrain."

The Corps went on to say, "Upriver from Baton Rouge, the Morganza floodway control structure could be operated if river levels reach 57 feet at the structure, and there is a 10-day forecast indicating a Mississippi River flow of 1.5 million cubic feet per second and rising past the structure. The structure would be operated to maintain a water stage of 57 feet on the river side of the structure, and a Mississippi River discharge rate that does not exceed 1.5 million cubic feet per second below the floodway."

The National Weather Service predicted there will be "significant river flooding" in the Lower Mississippi River all the way into mid-January. According to the NWS, the Mississippi River is forecast to crest in Greenville, Mississippi, on Jan. 12; Vicksburg, Mississippi, on Jan. 15; Natchez, Mississippi, on Jan. 17; and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Jan. 18.

Russell told DTN that as the river moves south, the worst of the flooding is receding. "Believe it or not, my concern looking forward is the El Nino effect causing low water problems," he said.

Mary Kennedy can be reached at