No Roar races, but party is still on

The powerboat races that are the centerpiece of Marietta’s annual Riverfront Roar event have been canceled for this weekend, but other aspects of the show will go on.

Heavy rains this week – including storms Wednesday evening that downed trees and power lines in some parts of the Mid-Ohio Valley – are expected to leave the Ohio River too treacherous for the high-speed racing that annually draws thousands of people to the levee in downtown Marietta.

“The sanctioning body said ‘no.’ They felt like the conditions were too dangerous,” said Gary Williams, chairman of the Riverfront Roar committee. “I think people, when they see the river (today), will understand why the drivers didn’t want to risk their boats or their necks.”

The Ohio River at Marietta had risen to nearly 22 feet Wednesday afternoon, while the normal level for this time of year is 15 or 16 feet, according to officials with the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Tree branches and other debris were visible floating in the muddy water even before thunderstorms struck Wednesday evening.

Afterward, a dispatcher with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said around 7:30 p.m. that there were numerous reports of trees and power lines down and water on roadways. A tree struck a house in Devola, but no one was reported injured, she said.

“Most of the fire departments are out, and the county and the highway patrol,” the dispatcher said.

Nearly 3,700 customers of AEP Ohio in Morgan County were without power as of 7:30, along with almost 1,000 in Washington County. Customers of the Washington Electric Cooperative served by substations in Bartlett, Dart, Fly and Rinard Mills were also experiencing outages.

There had been some high water reported earlier Wednesday by the sheriff’s office in Wingett Run, Macksburg and other locations.

On Tuesday evening, a New Matamoras woman’s car was swept about a quarter of a mile down the Little Muskingum River when she attempted to cross a creek bed that intersects her long driveway, according to Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks. April Hubbard, 50, was not injured and her car was towed from the water after it came to rest against a bridge.

River conditions

According to the National Weather Service, the river is expected to crest at Marietta at 26.3 feet this afternoon, well below the flood stage of 35 feet. Clear weather through the weekend should result in the level dropping, but not low enough to allow for a safe racing environment.

“If it’s up very high, we won’t be able to do it,” Jerry Book, commodore for the Buckeye Outboard Association, said early Wednesday.

Book cited difficulty getting boats into the water and also said debris in the river could pose a problem. After looking at updated forecast data Wednesday evening, the decision was made to cancel the races, Williams said.

“The next race will be next year,” he said.

Roar activities

But the warm weather following on the heels of the storm will allow other events around the Roar to continue.

“Everything stays in place,” Williams said. “I think we’re going to have beautiful weather.”

The beer garden in the city parking lot between the Lafayette Hotel and the river will still open at 5 p.m. Friday, with live entertainment scheduled until midnight, culminating in the Roar’s Got Talent competition starting at 10 p.m. Williams said the Buckeye Outboard Association will still try to get some boats to town to display during the downtown Merchants and Artist Walk, scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m. The Kids Zone, with an obstacle course, petting zoo and more, will also be held Friday evening and Saturday afternoon.

The Run for the Roar 5K, which will split proceeds between the Roar event, the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley and local Upward Bound programming, will still take place Saturday morning. To make up for the lack of racing, entertainment will kick off at 1 p.m. instead of 5, Williams said. A Columbus Zoo program featuring live animals is slated for 6 p.m. in front of the Armory.

The Pioneer Corvette Club Car Show will go on Sunday, as well.

The events still happening will require some road closures, but not as many as originally planned, since streets won’t be needed as staging areas for the boats. Williams said a revised list of closures would be determined today.