Warmer weather expected to loosen up ice on Illinois River

By Beau Ebenezer

January 10, 2014 Updated Jan 10, 2014 at 10:50 PM CDT

CREVE COEUR, Ill. -- It has been a year of severe weather in Central Illinois.

Damaging floods in April were followed by drought, tornadoes, snow, and severe cold.

Now warmer temperatures and rain have many people worried.

But this time, we should avoid another disaster.

The National Weather Service predicts up to 1/2-inch of rain Friday night.

However, the rain and melting snow should not cause any flooding on the Illinois River.

Instead, the increased water-flow should finally make it easier for barges carrying goods down the river.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers thinks that will speed up barges by as much as two hours.

Currently the Corps is using two helper boats to pull barges out of locks.

"These tow boats hook on and pull out the barges since our tow haulage units are not strong enough," said Illinois Waterway Project Manager, Mike Zerbonia. "The ice is so built up; it's at ten inches thick at the lock."

More than 200,000 tons of goods travel through Peoria by the river each week, which includes things like corn, coal, and oil.

But right now, only 6 barges are carried on a single tow compared to the average number of 15 barges per tow.

As the ice continues to melt, it will speed up the travel time.

This could prevent a trickle down of higher prices for consumers.

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