Warmer temperatures across the U.S. Midwest were seen easing navigation on the Mississippi River near St. Louis but barge traffic continued slow on the Illinois River due to ice buildup, river officials said. "Milder temperatures over the weekend cleared the navigational channel of ice in the St. Louis area and water levels are about foot higher than they were a week ago," said Charles Camillo, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman at St. Louis.
But further south of St. Louis -- Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to Cairo, Illinois -- there was still 70 to 80 percent ice coverage on the Mississippi, officials said.
On the Illinois River, there was hope among river officials and grain dealers that warmer temperatures would ease barge traffic problems. But as of Monday afternoon, ice buildup was still up to 15 inches thick in spots on the river.
"There's little to no barge traffic from Peoria to Morris," said Mark Witalka, U.S. Army Corp assistant lockmaster at Starved Rock. "Five miles above Starved Rock we have 100 percent ice coverage but we're starting to see some open water about a mile south of us."
But 100 miles south of Starved Rock at Peoria, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lockmaster reported 13 inches of ice with no barge traffic reported
in the Peoria Lake since December 30. Above-normal temperatures were forecast along the Illinois River all the way to St. Louis later this week, Weather Service Corp. metrologist Mike Palmerino said.
"It doesn't look like we're going to have any ice-making temperatures in the next 7 to 10 days," Palmerino said. "By Wednesday, temperatures are expected to push near 50 degrees (Fahrenheit) from Peoria south to St. Louis," he said. Temperatures were expected to drop back Thursday and Friday but would still be above normal with daytime temperatures in the mid-30s Fahrenheit and lows dipping just below freezing.
"Warmer temperatures are seen improving the ice situation but nothing dramatically," Palmerino said. "It's difficult to melt a lot of ice this time of year."
The NWS 6-to-10 day weather outlook issued on Monday afternoon for the January 14 to 18 period forecast above-normal temperatures for Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. - (Reuters)