MEMPHIS, Tenn.– The Mississippi River continues to drop to record low levels, and each drop has a potential impact on the prices of goods you use every day.
Holly Enlow is with the Army Corps of Engineers and her job is to monitor river gauges measuring water levels.
“We’re at a minus eight on our river gauge, which is the seventh lowest and since 1954. So, it’s below average for this time of year,” Enlow said.
With no significant rain in weeks, the river is setting record lows. While the lowest recorded was back in 1988 at minus 10.7 feet, we’re are on tap to surpass that soon.
“So the river will bump up a couple of feet and then we expect it to continue to fall until we get some significant rainfall,” Enlow said.
The fallout is already being felt. Riverboats are having to change their docking routine.
What would normally happen if the river wasn’t so low, boats would pull up to the dock and unload. Tourists would get off. However, that’s virtually impossible because the river is so low right now.
Instead, we spotted larger boats tied to trees on the upper river banks on Mud Island. Tourists were shuttled back and forth to the boat with some choosing to make the downhill walk on the rough pavement.
Barge traffic is also being affected by the low river levels.
The mighty Mississippi is an important waterway with barges carrying all kinds of cargo. With the river levels this low, barge traffic slows down.
Economists like John Gnuschke say that has a direct impact.
“Because the river has gotten shallow, we can’t load as much onto a barge, and since we can’t load it, load the barges, in fact, that increases the supply chain cost, and that shows up in inflation, and it shows up in your food cost,” Gnuschke said.
He says it will take time to feel the impact, but with no rain, things may only get worse for commodities that are shipped around the world.
“The longer the low water levels continue. We know that when they stay low, prices rise, and that’s as simple as it gets,” Gnuschke said.
A lot of eyes will be on the skies to see if we get significant rain anytime soon.