A few months ago, the Mississippi River was showing the effects of a near record drought. There was talk in December of shutting down barge traffic on key sections of the river due to the low water levels. In January, the level of the water at St. Louis was 4.57 feet below the river gauge. Today it is expected to rise to 39.4 feet above the river gauge, a forty five foot swing in water level in only four months. Over the weekend, the river was closed to barge traffic, this time not due to low water but to high. Several locks were shut down due to flood waters. Also a 15-mile stretch of the Mississippi River near St. Louis was closed late Saturday after 114 barges broke free from a fleeting area and 11 of them, all containing coal, sank. A second barge accident, apparently unrelated to flooding, also shut down the river near Vicksburg where about 30 barges broke free from a string under tow Sunday morning and struck a railroad bridge. The river is expected to climb another 2½ feet in St. Louis before cresting Tuesday at 35 feet. That would be its highest level in nearly three years, though still nearly 15 feet below the record set in 1993.