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Barge Traffic Resumes on Mississippi River
May 23, 2011

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Crews began cautiously moving barges and small ships down the Mississippi River near Baton Rouge, after Coast Guard officials reopened the river there, three days after closing it because three barges sunk in the flood-swollen water. Tributaries, most notably the Yazoo in Mississippi, were nearing flood stage as well.

The traffic moved only north, meaning upstream. Southbound traffic should be able to resume soon, officials said, reiterating plans to raise the sunken barges. Twenty-seven ships were waiting for permission to move downriver. Every day that goes by means a drop in the amount of grain and other crops that don't go down the river, out of ports such as at New Orleans, and on to other states and countries.

Flood risk along the river is by no means gone, however. Large areas of land surrounding the river remain flooded, including large swathes of farmland and residential land. The Mississippi cities of Vicksburg and Natchez have suffered remarkably high water levels in recent days, but officials reported that the river had crested and was receding, if slowly.

Thousands of people have been left homeless by the floodwater, which was has been encroaching on living and planting space for a few weeks now, the result of higher-than-normal rains and snowmelt all along the Mississippi River. Levees along the river and delta are holding, for most of the part (with one well-publicized manmade exception), but officials are preparing for more flooding even as residents continue to place sandbags at multiple strategic locations.

New Orleans residents remember all too well the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.

The flooding is the latest in a series of natural disasters visited on Americans in the past year. For many people, it was a brutal winter full of snow and ice. For others, it has been a spring of tornadoes and thunderstorms. The latest tornado was the deadliest in nearly 60 years.



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