River below flood level|[2/6/05]

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 7, 2005

The Mississippi River dipped below flood stage of 43 feet in Vicksburg for the first time in two weeks Saturday afternoon.

The river fell to 42.8 feet and it is expected to stay below flood stage for at least a week, senior hydrologist David Welch of the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center said Saturday.

“For the next five days, we are showing a continued fall on the upper Mississippi and lower Ohio (rivers) and those falls should be seen down in Vicksburg,” he said.

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The river topped flood stage Jan. 22. Parts of roads in northern Warren County, including Thompson Lake, Chickasaw, Long Lake and Ziegler roads near the Yazoo River and Lane Drive near Lake Chotard, have been covered with water and closed to traffic.

Though the river’s level has begun to fall, restrictions on barge traffic will continue, U.S. Coast Guard officials said.

The restrictions were announced by the Coast Guard Jan. 28, after barges that had broken loose from their guide cables in high and rushing water hit piers of the Interstate 20 and U.S. 80 bridges three times in nine days. The wrecks occurred Jan. 24, Jan. 27 and Feb. 2. No one was injured, and invsestigationos indicated the bridges had not been damaged.

The restrictions will be re-evaluated Monday, Coast Guard Lt. Todd Peterson said.

“We want to keep the restrictions in place just as a precautionary measure,” he said.

With the limits, tows of more than 30 barges are prohibited in the zone near the bridges, those with between 15 and 30 barges are allowed during daylight hours only and those of 15 or fewer barges may pass at any time.

If a tow has any red-flag barge – one capable of carrying petroleum, gasoline or other hazardous cargo, whether empty or full – the tows are limited to 25 standard barges. Also, any tow with a red-flag barge must have engine capacity of at least 350 horsepower per barge instead of the 280 horsepower required of other tows.

The restrictions do not apply to vessels entering or leaving the Yazoo Diversion Canal or northbound traffic.