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Shipping traffic resumes on part of Mississippi affected by barge accidents

| Monday, April 22, 2013, 8:45 p.m.
A duck swims a window, viewed from inside Anderson Eye Care at the Riverfront Plaza Building in downtown Grand Rapids, Mich., as The Grand River crests on Monday, April 22, 2013, at an all time high of 21.85 feet, a full 2.2 feet above the record set in 1985, in downtown Grand Rapids. Previous water levels can be seen marked on the wall. (AP Photo/The Grand Rapids Press, Cory Morse)

CLARKSVILLE, Mo. — Commercial shipping traffic is moving again on the Mississippi River south of St. Louis where a pair of barge accidents forced the Coast Guard to close the waterway over the weekend, but navigation remained severely impaired farther north.

Flooding following torrential rains across the central United States forced the Army Corps of Engineers to close about a dozen locks on the Illinois River and the Mississippi River north of St. Louis late last week.

The Coast Guard closed a section of the Illinois River near Peoria to all traffic to protect levees, and was considering shipping restrictions in other areas as heavy currents made navigation treacherous.

The shipping headaches arose just three months after near-record low water threatened to close the Mississippi River in a busy stretch from St. Louis to its confluence with the Ohio River at Cairo, Ill.

“While the conditions are much different than they were this winter, the effects are quite the same. We're placing operational guidelines on the vessel industry and shutting parts of the river,” Coast Guard spokesman Colin Fogarty said.

A 15-mile stretch of the Mississippi River near St. Louis was closed late Saturday after 114 barges primarily owned by American Commercial Lines broke free from a fleeting area and 11 of them, all containing coal, sank.

Last week's downpours brought on sudden flooding throughout the Midwest, and high water is blamed for at least three deaths. Authorities in LaSalle, Ill., spent Monday searching for a woman whose van was spotted days earlier near a bridge over the flooded Illinois, and a 12-year-old boy was in critical condition after being pulled from the Big River near Leadwood, Mo., about 65 miles south of St. Louis.

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