(Reuters) - Commercial navigation on the lower Ohio River near Cairo, Illinois, has resumed following a brief river closure early on Wednesday after a barge tow struck a highway bridge and its 12 corn barges broke free, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
The Cairo highway bridge sustained only cosmetic damage and nine of the breakaway barges were undamaged, a Coast Guard spokesman said. Damage to the other three barges were being assessed.
High water has restricted shipping traffic on the lower Ohio River this month as melting snow and heavy rains swelled the major grain shipping waterway that links eastern Midwest farm areas with export terminals at the Gulf of Mexico.
Several grain elevators along the Ohio River are unable to load barges because vessels do not have access to grain loading spouts. Others are struggling to find enough empty vessels to load grain because some barge lines have avoided the flood-swollen river.
The shipping woes sent cash premiums for immediate barge shipments of corn to the Gulf Coast to the highest in nearly three weeks while spot soybean premiums are at the highest in two weeks.
The Ohio River at Cairo is forecast to crest at 48.5 feet on Wednesday before receding slowly over the coming weeks, according to the National Weather Service's Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service.
(Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Grant McCool)