The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:
(PADUCAH, Ky.) — The Coast Guard has closed a portion of the Upper Mississippi River to all vessel traffic near Cairo, Ill., on Thursday.
Coast Guard Ohio Valley has closed traffic at 12:30 p.m. from mile marker 33 (Lens Small Levee) to mile marker 109.9 (Chester Highway Bridge, Ill.), due to high water levels and fast currents.
“Our primary goal is to support the states, local community, and our partner agencies in a joint effort,” said Cmdr. Mark Sawyer, commanding officer, Marine Safety Unit Paducah. “We are here to save lives, protect the environment, and to minimize disruptions to maritime commerce.”
The multi-agency waterways action plan for the region recommends closing these portions of the river during extreme high water to protect levee integrity. Removal of any restrictions to river operations will be re-evaluated as river conditions improve.
The U.S. Coast Guard captain of the port determines when to issue a river closure by following a waterways action plan, which provides the marine industry, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, state and local governments with a plan for facilitating the safe and orderly movement of traffic during extreme conditions on the inland rivers.
In support of local response efforts, a Coast Guard rescue teams was dispatched today to assist with the delivery of 43,500 sandbags from Sikeston, Mo., to the Cape Girardeau Public Works.
Three rescue teams deployed out of Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Paducah and have been assisting the local communities in the Cape Girardeau and Sikeston areas by conducting welfare checks, visiting 285 homes in Missouri on Wednesday. One of these teams was dispatched to assist five horses and two ponies trapped by floodwaters. Partnering with local authorities, they cautiously moved them to safety on higher ground.
The Coast Guard has deployed two MH-65 Dolphin helicopters and one HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane from several locations to the affected area to conduct flood monitoring and search and rescue operations if needed.