Posted: May 12, 2011 7:26 PM by Stephanie Ryan
Updated: May 12, 2011 7:26 PM
BATON ROUGE- Traffic on the Mississippi River is one way only, as current strengths have more than doubled.
Southbound traffic has to be escorted by boats that help them align so the current does not push them into a bridge. Only when boats headed toward New Orleans have passed can northbound traffic move forward.
That has more than quadrupled wait times for boats that now idle on the swollen river for up to four hours at a time.
Even the Vessel Traffic Control Center is strained as they adjust to new, much smaller quarters. Thursday morning, they arrived to their old center to find the driveway so flooded many cars could not make their way through. That's why they moved their entire operation to a small travel trailer under the Huey P. Long Bridge in West Baton Rouge.
The quarters are cramped, but workers directing traffic know they have an important job to do.
"Currents are really strong, and the bridge is not gonna move, so these guys have to hit it right when they come down above the bridge," Deloach Marine employee Thomas Paine said. "It's dangerous."
The Coast Guard said they do not have a water depth at which point they will shut down river traffic, but did say if water from wakes in the curent is lapping up on the top of the levees or overtopping it, they may shut traffic down.