Low river level causes traffic issues South of Memphis

Lack of rain in Mid-South impacting barge traffic in lower Mississippi River

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - After seeing major flooding earlier this year Mississippi River levels have now dropped drastically. Weeks of no rain in the Mid-South is causing major problem along the river farther South.

Right now the Mississippi River is sitting at just about six feet in Memphis, which the Army Corps of Engineers says is above average for this time of the year.

The Port of Memphis is the second largest inland port on the Mississippi River. In 2018, the port had a nearly $9.3 billion economic impact in Shelby County according to The International Port of Memphis.

The reason Holly Enlow’s job is essential to the county. She helps keep the commerce flowing as a Hydraulic Engineer with Army Corps of Engineers.

“We do a lot of predicting on how high the water level is going to get in the river, maintaining navigation, flood control, things like that,” she said.

Despite the Mighty Mississippi showing off it’s sandy riverbanks recently, Enlow says Memphis’s port and river traffic is just fine.

When Memphis’s river level drops too low barges are warned to lighten their load to navigate the water.

“We are actually at two feet above where we are this point in the year. Our average water level is about 4.8 on the Memphis gauge and we are at 6.6 right now,” said Enlow.

Enlow says our area starts to run in to problems when the gauge reads zero. And looking 28 days out, even with dropping water level, we are safe.

“In our stretch of the river we don’t have any concerns right now there are a few locations that we are watching closely to determine if there will be an issue if the river drops,” said Enlow.

The area of concern was south of Clarksdale, Mississippi in Rosedale.

Flooding earlier this year delayed needed dredging causing limited traffic to flow through the area.

Friday morning there was a back up of about 30 barges north and south.

Work on the river was complete Friday afternoon and traffic was mostly cleared out, allowing for smooth sailing of goods traveling up and down the river.

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