By Lisa Shumaker
CHICAGO, June 13 (Reuters) - The Mississippi River will rise higher than originally forecast in St. Louis, forcing two locks and dams to close a day earlier than expected amid the worst flooding in the Midwest in 15 years.
The river is forecast to crest in St. Louis at 39.6 feet on June 20, up from forecasts earlier Friday of 38 feet.
"It will rank as about the eighth or ninth on the record books," said Alan Dooley, spokesman for the Army Corps. "It’s like the flood of 1982 or 1944."
Flooding in St. Louis still is not expected to be as severe as 1993 when the river reached 49.58 feet and water was halfway up the steps of the St. Louis Gateway Arch. Midwest flooding that year killed 48 people and caused $21.0 billion in damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The Missouri and Illinois rivers flow into the Mississippi River at St. Louis, a major hub for grain and transportation.
Some of the worst of the flooding is in Iowa, a leading producer of U.S. corn and soybeans. [ID:nN13461348]
Crop losses from the flooding have sent corn futures at the Chicago Board of Trade to record highs for seven straight trading sessions. Prices for food and fuel could rise, playing into growing fears of inflation threatening the battered U.S. economy.
LOCKS TO CLOSE EARLY
With the Mississippi River rising more rapidly than forecast, two locks in Missouri will close a day earlier than expected.
Lock 24 in Clarksville, Missouri, will close on Saturday. Lock 25 in Winfield, Missouri, will close on Sunday.
A total of four locks have closed on the upper Mississippi River since Thursday and a total of 11 will shut down operations by Monday, cutting off commerce on a 300-mile (483-km) stretch of the most important U.S. commercial waterway.
The closures are all above St. Louis, allowing barge traffic to still flow on the lower Mississippi and Ohio rivers.
The Mississippi River is the main channel for grain grown in the Midwest to reach export terminals at the Gulf. The river also transports millions of tonnes of coal and petroleum products each year.
The following are details on the lock closures:
June 12: Locks 16, 17, 20
June 13: Lock 18
June 13: Locks 14, 21, 22
June 14: Locks 13, 19, 24
June 15: Lock 25 (Reporting by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by David Gregorio)