Following the worst drought in half a century, that has brought water levels in the Mississippi close to historic lows, agencies are reporting that this could shut down all shipping in a matter of weeks.
A year after near-historic flooding, the Mississippi's water levels are at near-historic lows. This stretches, U.S. News points out, from Cairo, Illinois, where the Ohio River empties into it, to New Orleans, just north of its endpoint at the Gulf of Mexico.
The drought which impacted heavily on the US southern states throughout year has taken its toll on the mighty Mississippi river. According to the Guardian, without rain fall, the water levels on the Mississippi are projected to reach historic lows by the end of 2012. This is based on the national weather service in its latest most recent four-week forecast.
The reason why shipping could be stopped is because the drought has made sections of the river dangerous. Near the town of Thebes, the drought has created a low-water point where pinnacles of rock extend upwards from the river bottom making passage treacherous for boats, according to The Star.
In response to the conditions, the number of barges being hauled along the river has fallen. Current projections suggest water levels could drop too low to send barges through Thebes before the new year, unless there is heavy rainfall. This would have a significant and adverse impact on the local economy, CBS News reports.