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Judy Patsch 04-21-2011 09:05 AM

Upper Mississippi flooding
Here on the UMR we don't have the rapid 40 ft. increases as the Ohio often has. Ours is a slow progression of rising water which often hangs around for several weeks. This year's screwy weather has caused many drastic changes in the crest forecasts. Flood stage here in the Quad Cities is 15 ft. Our record crest is 22.83, back in 1993. When I was in New Orleans last month, forecasters were predicting catastrophic crests of 24-26 feet and towns were having emergency meetings and getting sandbags filled. Then the cold weather returned and stopped the snow melt from up north, and predictions dropped to a minimal flood of 16-18 ft. Now with daily rain/snow throughout the upper midwest, the predictions have gone up. Today we sit at 20.3 with a crest of 20.9 expected tomorrow. This causes significant flooding in Davenport, as the accompanying link shows. [url=]Quad-Cities Online[/url] The city built a catwalk to the ballpark, so Sunday a game went on even though the park was surrounded by flood waters - you can see the players on the field in one picture. Rock Island has a flood wall, so we are fine other than down at Sunset Park and Marina, which is inundated at this level. In photos 1-4, that is the bandshell in LeClaire Park below the stadium, where the Bix Jazz Fest and many other concerts are held. In the photos of the Davenport casino, that is an Alter towboat holding the complex in place. This casino is part of the Isle of Capri company which Alter owner Bernie Goldstein founded. Needless to say, the casino is closed due to the flood.

Frank X. Prudent 04-21-2011 02:53 PM

Over here on the Beautiful River in Cincy the guage is about 51.5 and climbing. Flood stage is 52, and the expected crest is this coming Saturday at 55 feet. More rain is expected to come begining tonight and continue on into next week. That means the good people at the Weather Bureau will have to get out their calculators and refigure the crest.

Judy Patsch 04-21-2011 05:01 PM

UMR+Ohio =
Looks like a 17 ft. stage in New Orleans in a couple of weeks, with both major rivers flooding. Two thirds of NOLA's water comes from the Ohio. Back in the summer of 1993, I was working on the NATCHEZ during the record UMR flood. When our water reached NOLA, all it did was make the river stage about 8 ft. instead of the usual August 3 ft. levels. This spring the NOLA levels have been high thanks to the early Ohio flooding, but when both of these end up down there, it might bring the Bonne Carre Spillway gates open again...

Jeffrey Williams 04-21-2011 10:23 PM

The St. Croix River at Stillwater crested earlier this week and the river levels have dropped by at least four feet. The Stillwater Lift Bridge, considered the "Most Dangerous Bridge in America" thanks to this [URL=""]report[/URL]. The Mississippi River crested for it's second time at 18.71 feet at 2 a.m. Monday April 11th. Things are getting better on this part of the UMR.

Ted Davisson 04-22-2011 02:16 PM

Try Working In These Conditions !
3 Attachment(s)
Greetings From New Orleans !
First of all , try working in these conditions ! Its been my observation after working in these high water conditions for over thirty five years that a number of events and changes in the " normal " routine of river navigation take place that will make Christians out of everyone !
Furthermore , I contend that the hardest part of navigating large and loaded vessels , such as loaded grain ships with over forty feet of draft , is to literally stop or check the swing or turning of these vessels below the points that we go around !
The other trick is to stay out of the eddies , especially when in a high water condition , they will extend almost half way out into the channel !
Another issues is simply to have adequate tug boat assistance for docking , undocking and or turning . Because of the high water many tugs are in service just pushing and holding loaded ships alongside their respective docks ! This uses up the supply of available tugs in the area once again for docking but especially turning a large ship around . To further complicate turning large loaded ships around in a high water and restricted channel , a peculiar event takes place . Just like how the wind has an effect on the sail of a sail boat when it is tacking through the water , when a large loaded ship is turning into excessive current , the force of the current acts just like the wind on the sail and tends to give the ship headway through the water ! The problem with this is that in a narrow and restrictive channel we simply do not have the extra room to allow the ship to get headway and to cross the river . Consequently , a pilot will need additional tug power to slow or stop this current driven headway on the turning ship .
Another problem we have to deal with is simply visability ! This time of year , we are still experiencing fog and needless to say this brings on another whole set of challenges when we have to deal with not only the the high water and current but now also the fog and having to find room in the anchorages and tug boat assistance to turn these large ships in these small and restricted anchorages !
One other issue we encounter with high river conditions is the problem with pilots or operators , and there is a big difference , that are NOT familiar with strong current and the effects that it has on vessels of any kind .
Last but not least , another issue we have with high water is simply there is now not enough vertical clearance to pass under the respective bridges between New Orleans and Baton Rouge ! The Huey P. Long bridge has always been the lowest bridge in our route and now it is even lower now because of the construction that is taking place to widen the deck of the bridge !
So , long story short , these high water conditions make it especially tough even on the older and more seasoned Pilots that now have to navigate in all these varied and sordid conditions !
Just Another Day At The Office !
Smooth Sailing !
Ted Davisson

Keith Norrington 04-22-2011 05:30 PM

The ol' Mississip' isn't the only BIG river at the moment. Here at Louisville the Ohio is again on the rise and expected to exceed flood stage by at least 6 feet. From the museum windows I could see a lot of "wheel inspectors" (drift) going down at a rapid pace. A writer from [I]Heartland Boating [/I]Magazine (now owned by [I]The Waterways Journal[/I]) visited this morning and told me she had hoped to ride the SPIRIT OF JEFFERSON, but all cruises are cancelled due to the high water. As I type this a raging thunderstorm is in progress and the rain is POURING!

Judy Patsch 04-22-2011 05:43 PM

Cairo Illinois
With both of us flooding, I wonder where the water will reach into Cairo?

Bob Reynolds 04-22-2011 06:26 PM

Ted, you are right about all the things you state. However, it is not just deep loaded ships (or even ships in ballast) that give problems during high water.

Several times in your piece you mention tugs and your dependence on them. What has amazed me for years is the way large tows operate on the rivers, often in VERY tight quarters, with almost no assist from other vessels. Often this is done out of necessity as there are no assist boats around. If a pilot is taking 15 loads down into a lock on the Upper Mississippi River, where the guidewall is not a guard wall (i.e., it is on the bank side instead of out on the dam side), he has his hands full! When they have 15 loaded barges, that's 22,500 tons of cargo alone, not counting the weight of the boat and barges themselves. On a 5,600 h.p. boat, that's only about 4 horsepower per ton! Imagine in severe outdraft trying to put that 105 foot wide tow into a 110 foot wide lock chamber and get it stopped without hitting the bullnose, all with no tug. Tugs are now available at many locks on the Upper, but not all. When there is no tug available, the pilot and mate out on the head of the tow must be working together real well, as the mate has to "check" the tow in to the wall on a single part line while the pilot holds the stern in close. Otherwise, the whole tow can draft out over the dam or top around and the results are disaster!

I work on unit tows -- long and skinny, usually 3 barges. Many pilots of large tows think, "Oh those guys on those unit tows have it made...only 3 barges!" Imagine this same scenario at a lock with no tug: we are almost 1,100 feet long, with a total tonnage of 10,200 tons and 3,000 h.p. The difference is we are narrow and have to keep "checking" the head all the way down into the chamber, since we are only 54 feet wide. It adds another whole dimension to the deal!

In the Baton Rouge-New Orleans area, there are high water problems as well. Tows can and do flank bends, but the ships do not have that option. The ship and tow pilot must all work together to make sure we don't get to a sharp bend at the same time. Either a ship or tow will have to run slow for a good piece to give the other time to do what they need, almost like a big "dance" over several miles! In the BR-NO corridor add to that that there are barge fleets along almost every mile of river that stick out to nearly mid river. Fleet boats are running around tending to their own business and dodging in and out of ship and tow traffic. Radio traffic is never-ending, and the office calls every now and then for good measure to either change orders or ask some silly question about a VGP documentation issue.

We'll all be glad when the water goes down!

Frank X. Prudent 04-23-2011 12:38 AM

Bob and Ted all you say is true. Now, imagine doing what you both describe with just a wood and iron sternwheel out back and 1200 horsepower to move you along. What is the old saying, iron men on wooden boats? It certainly increases in my mind the stature of the Wally Blices, Harry Loudens, Oren Russells, Eugene Hamptons, Joe Hughes, "Chick" Lucases, Fontain Johnsons, Norman Hillmans, Charles Youngs, of the river.

Dan Lewis 04-23-2011 12:24 PM

These conditions certainly has us watching and appreciating the nerve and skill it takes pilots to get their tows into the canal! It is a bit nerve-racking to see some of these tows set themselves up going into the canal by flanking VERY CLOSE to us. I've looked up from my work more than a few times lately to see big line tow swinging towards us within enough proximity to see the sweat pouring from the pilot's brow!

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