Officials keeping an eye on Ohio River

September 11, 2018
Lori Wolfe/The Herald-Dispatch Heavy rains in the Ohio Valley have sent the Ohio River levels at Huntington upward, and theyÕre still rising. The river rose six feet from 2 p.m. Sunday to 2 p.m. Monday, and it should rise another 14.4 feet before it crests at 46.4 feet at noon Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. Then comes cleanup, as the falling river often leaves several inches of mud on the lower levels of Harris Riverfront Park and local boat ramps.

HUNTINGTON — Area officials are keeping an eye on areas prone to flooding while the Ohio River nears its flood stage as a heavy flow of rain exits the Tri-State area, with more expected to return this weekend as the remnants of Hurricane Florence reach West Virginia.

As showers subsided in the Cabell County area Monday, Florence’s path became more clear, drawing a line from the Carolina coasts to southern West Virginia.

The river is expected to crest at 48.2 feet in Huntington at about 2 p.m. Wednesday. In Ashland, which has a flood stage of 50 feet, the river is expected to crest at 48.1 feet late Wednesday. As of 3:35 p.m. Monday, the National Weather Service reported 3.83 inches had fallen in the previous 24 hours in Huntington.

According to Brian Bracey, the executive director of the Huntington Water Quality Board, it is not expected the floodgates will have to be closed as the Ohio River rises; however, crews are on call and prepared to respond immediately if the forecast changes. The Huntington Stormwater Utility activated five of the floodwall pump stations Monday and the number is anticipated to grow to 17 by Wednesday, Bracey said.

Water Quality Board crews also spent Monday clearing catch basins, and will continue to do so throughout the week, to create better water flow.

A few reports of fallen trees and early morning car crashes plagued Cabell County 911 throughout Sunday and Monday morning, but were cleared by mid-afternoon Monday as the rain subsided. No significant flooding issues were reported in the Cabell County area as a result.

In Lawrence County, Ohio, the Ohio Department of Transportation reported several roads were reported to be closed Monday due to flooding, including Ohio 218, which was shut down at the Gallia County line.

The threat for rain will remain for the Tri-State this week before the skies clear up Thursday evening and throughout the weekend. Temperatures are also expected to increase and remain in the 80s through Sunday.

But the saturation of the ground caused by this weekend’s rain is expected to lead to flooding next week as the remnants of Hurricane Florence reach West Virginia. Florence, which was upgraded to a category 4 hurricane Monday, is expected to make landfall along the South Carolina and North Carolina borders just after midnight Friday and to reach West Virginia by Saturday afternoon.

The National Weather Service released a “hazardous weather outlook” on Monday afternoon, saying the potential exists for heavy rainfall during the weekend.

“However, the path of Florence, and hence where the heavy rainfall will occur, remains uncertain,” according to the outlook.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has directed the State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the West Virginia National Guard to begin preparing for potential emergency situations, according to a statement released by his office on Monday. The National Guard will provide logistics to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency once the hurricane makes landfall. West Virginia National Guard crews, including members of swift water rescue teams, have readied plans and equipment to mobilize in the event of an emergency.

“All West Virginians need to prepare immediately for the potential impact Hurricane Florence may bring to the Mountain State,” Justice said in the statement.

Justice told residents to follow news and weather reports for the most up-to-date information, and reminded them to never attempt to drive through flood waters.

Reporter Travis Crum contributed to this report.

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.

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