Captain Tim Miller steering the Melody Golding, flagship of Golding Barge Line, making its way towards the bridges at Vicksburg and wondering, how low can it go!
The pilots are stressed out with navigation woes with the Mississippi River now at 5 feet. Flood stage is 43 feet. With navigating the river at night is like driving with dim headlights on a dark, winding highway as the yellow and white caution lines are erased and repainted. Add to that increasingly low water conditions and the river at night becomes a dangerous mix of unknown darkness for which the best maps and voyages plans can fully prepare.
The Melody Golding made a stop in the Yazoo River Diversion Canal on a night last week to attach an empty barge to the northbound low, and it was with a determined concentration the type expected more during a moon landing than river navigation - that Miller pulled into the canal.
At the deepest in the mouth of the canal, the water below the boat measures 11.6 feet, leaving little room for error for the boat's 9-foot draft.
"The Yazoo is tight right now," Miller said. "You can't meet anyone in here."
With a cargo of about 3 million gallons of gas, diesel and other petrochemicals in tow, extra caution was understandable. He said, that one of those guys with grain, if he spills some, it's going to be fish food, but if I spill this, it's going to be my name on Headline New!
Also, adding to the woes is the sandbars. It can be unpredictable and unstable. The bank can look and feel solid and the next minute it can be dropping under your feet. The river is down 27.7 from 32.7 feet this date last year and 52.1 feet below the historic high of 57.1 feet recorded on May 19, 2011, when flooding lapped the waterway of it banks in states north and south.
We are lucky that we have had no incidents reported on the sandbars, which have been dotted with boaters and sunbathers on sunny days during the past few weeks, but still suggest people avoid them. The sandbars are always dangerous, whether the water is low or not. You have to be aware of the strength of the river at all times...the Mighty Mississippi!
Some of the contents from The Vicksburg Post