The Coast Guard closed a portion of the Upper Mississippi River to all vessel traffic Thursday afternoon near Cairo, Ill., due to high water levels and fast currents.

Traffic was halted between mile marker 33 (Len Small Levee) to mile marker 109.9 (Chester Highway Bridge, Ill.), due to high water levels and fast currents.

“Our primary goal is to support the states, local community, and our partner agencies in a joint effort,” said Cmdr. Mark Sawyer, commanding officer, Marine Safety Unit Paducah, Ky. “We are here to save lives, protect the environment, and to minimize disruptions to maritime commerce.”

The multiagency Waterways Action Plan for the region recommends closing these portions of the river during extreme high water to protect levee integrity. Removal of any restrictions to river operations will be re-evaluated as river conditions improve.

The Coast Guard said the river was closed in accordance with their waterways action plan to facilitate the safe and orderly movement of traffic during extreme conditions on the inland rivers, and that conditions would be re-evaluated to determine when travel restrictions could be lifted.

In support of local response efforts, a Coast Guard rescue team was dispatched to assist with the delivery of 43,500 sandbags from Sikeston, Mo., to the Cape Girardeau Public Works.

Three rescue teams deployed out of Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Paducah have been assisting the local communities in the Cape Girardeau and Sikeston areas by conducting welfare checks, visiting 285 homes in Missouri on Wednesday. One of these teams was dispatched to assist five horses and two ponies trapped by floodwaters. Partnering with local authorities, they moved them to safety on higher ground.

The Coast Guard has deployed two MH-65 Dolphin helicopters and one HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane from several locations to the affected area to conduct flood monitoring and search and rescue operations if needed.

For further information please contact a Coast Guard Incident Command Post representative at 224-531-1622.