Miss. River closed at Natchez; could slow shipping

By the Associated Press | May 17, 2011 | 10:14 AM EDT

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The swollen Mississippi River has been closed to shipping at Natchez, Miss., shutting the major artery for moving grain from farmland in the Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico for export.

The U.S. Coast Guard closed the river Tuesday at the Natchez port because barges on the water could put pressure on the levees. It's not clear how long the closure will last, but any interruption can create a backlog of shipping barges and slow commerce.

The Mississippi River is expected to crest Saturday in Natchez at 63 feet, down a half-foot than earlier predictions, but almost five feet above a record set in 1937.

About 70 miles upriver, areas around Vicksburg have seen some of the worst flooding. More than 4,200 people are displaced by flooding in Mississippi — most in Vicksburg.