Lack of rain threatens to drop Mississippi River level to near-record at Vicksburg

Published 12:43 pm Tuesday, September 12, 2023

A lack of rainfall in the upper Mississippi and Ohio River basins is threatening to drop the level of the Mississippi River at Vicksburg to its record-setting 2022 level of -0.2 feet.

According to the National Weather Service, the Mississippi River was at 3.5 feet Tuesday and is predicted to drop to near the 2022 mark by late September or early October.

The threat of low water has forced the cruise boats that visit the Vicksburg area to consider landing south of the city at the public boat ramp at LeTourneau and busing their passengers into town.

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And the problem isn’t going away anytime soon — unless heavy rains fall in the upper river basins and alter a seasonal occurrence.

“September and October are typically our driest part of the year so the chances of us getting widespread beneficial rain right now are pretty low,” said Anna Wolverton, meteorologist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi Valley Division. “Looking at the seven-day to two-week forecast the chances for any beneficial rain are pretty low. Some light rain is in the forecast but it won’t be beneficial.”

Wolverton said September and October are usually the lowest time of the year for the Mississippi, adding, “We usually don’t start to see that rise again until December or January going into the spring season.”

And unless some heavier rains fall across the Midwest and the Ohio River Basin, she said, it’s unlikely there will be any rise in the Mississippi River at Vicksburg.

River stages will begin to improve when the seasons begin changing in December, when the weather starts getting wetter.

“Our wettest months here are usually March and May or March and April and the same for parts of the Midwest into the Ohio River Basin,” Wolverton said, adding that water from the Ohio River Basin accounts for 60 percent of the Mississippi River’s flow in Vicksburg.

“Sixty percent of the water flowing through Vicksburg right now comes from the Ohio River,” she said. “So that’s a large portion. If we can get some rain over the Ohio Basin, that would be very beneficial for us down here. That’s kind of where we’re at right now. Sit and pray for rain.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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