The Mississippi River is vital to American commerce and communities from the Gulf of Mexico to Minnesota, but the drought of 2012 is putting the river and those who rely on it in jeopardy.John Yang at NBC reports that just one year after the flooding that put much of the Midwest under water, the Mississippi is now at levels lower than most people can remember.
It’s so low that barges must carry less freight, and salt water from the Gulf of Mexico is seeping into New Orlean’s drinking water.
Yang talked to a third-generation shipping co-owner in Vicksburg, Miss. who said “It’s getting near critical. “Without more rain, we’re heading into uncharted territory.”
The American Waterways Operators says the river sees $180 billion of goods travel its surface every year. Five-hundred million tons of goods, according to NBC, that includes 60 per cent of U.S. grain, 22 per cent of its oil and gas, and one-fifth the nation’s coal. “It would take 60 trailer trucks to carry the cargo in just one barge, 144 18-wheeler tankers to carry the oil and gas in one petroleum barge,” NBC reports.
Barges are already forced to carry less to keep from running aground, and still up to 20 barges have gotten stuck already this year.
The situation is like nothing seen in over 50-years and to get an on-the-ground understanding of what’s happening, check out Yang’s story here.
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