Mississippi River low; drought likely to worsen

Posted: July 20, 2012 in Financial, natural disasters
Tags: ,

Drought sends ‘mighty Mississippi River’ levels near record lows
CNN online 20 July 2012


The “mighty Mississippi” has lost some of its might with the season’s epic drought taking its toll on river levels, which are falling to near historic lows. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will spend nearly $7 million dredging in an attempt to keep ports operational and keep the river open for barge traffic in the coming weeks.

River levels in Memphis have dropped to within three feet of their historic lows from the 1988 drought. In just one year, the river has gone through extreme fluctuation. Last May, it was within a foot of its record-high crest because of massive flooding, and today it’s 55 feet lower and experiencing historic lows due to drought.

Last year the expanse of the water was over 3 miles wide in parts of Missouri and Arkansas as levees were blown up in order to help protect the town of Cairo, Illinois from flood waters. This year shows a much different story with the river less than a half mile wide in spots.

New data from U.S. Drought Monitor issued Thursday shows the drought has worsened in the past week, and now ranks as the second worst drought in U.S. history over the lower 48 since records began in 1895.

And the Army Corps said that the shrinking of the Mississippi means that saltwater is beginning to work its way upriver, which could threaten some water supplies.

http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/19/drought-sends-mighty-mississippi-river-levels-near-record-lows/

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Widespread Drought is Likely to Worsen
The New York Times online
July 19, 2012

The drought that has settled over more than half of the continental United States this summer is the most widespread in more than half a century. And it is likely to grow worse.

The latest outlook released by the National Weather Service on Thursday forecasts increasingly dry conditions over much of the nation’s breadbasket, a development that could lead to higher food prices and shipping costs as well as reduced revenues in areas that count on summer tourism. About the only relief in sight was tropical activity in the Gulf of Mexico and the Southeast that could bring rain to parts of the South.

The unsettling prospects come at a time of growing uncertainty for the country’s economy. With evidence mounting of a slowdown in the economic recovery, this new blow from the weather is particularly ill-timed.

Already some farmers are watching their cash crops burn to the point of no return. Others have been cutting their corn early to use for feed, a much less profitable venture.

The government has declared one-third of the nation’s counties — 1,297 of them across 29 states — federal disaster areas as a result of the drought, which will allow farmers to apply for low-interest loans to get them through the disappointing growing season.

What is particularly striking about this dry spell is its breadth. Fifty-five percent of the continental United States — from California to Arkansas, Texas to North Dakota — is under moderate to extreme drought, according to the government, the largest such area since December 1956.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/20/science/earth/severe-drought-expected-to-worsen-across-the-nation.html?pagewanted=all

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