Ohio River expected to flood in Marietta

Flooding of roads causes local school closures

From staff reports

Continuing rains on Monday prompted some schools to close early, while the prospect of a hurricane sending more precipitation toward the Mid-Ohio Valley led to the cancellation of some upcoming events.

As of late Monday, the Ohio River at Marietta was supposed to crest at 36 feet around 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Frontier Local Schools sent their students home early Monday and announced the closure of schools for Tuesday as well.

Frontier Superintendent Brian Rentsch said the high school dismissed at noon, with New Matamoras and Newport elementaries closing at 12:30 p.m., allowing all students to have lunch before they went home.

“This morning our transportation coordinator checked the roads, and they looked in great shape to start school. The rain was supposed to have subsided, but we reassessed the back roads and the creeks,” Rentsch said. “Some of the creeks were over their banks, and at that point we had to dismiss early.”

The district, having determined the river was at 39.5 feet, pre-emptively canceled school for Tuesday.

“We’re going to err on the side of caution, and reassess things tomorrow for Wednesday,” Rentsch said on Monday.

Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks said his team was prepared for flooding, but as of Monday afternoon only two road closures due to high water had been reported — at 20470 Ohio 60 and the 1.5 milepost on County Road 9.

The Muskingum River at McConnelsville is predicted to reach action stage, 9 feet, by 8 a.m. Wednesday but at Beverly, farther downriver, the swell of 24.9 feet by 8 a.m. Wednesday is still below action stage. Flood stage at McConnelsville is 11 feet and at Beverly it is 29 feet.

Marietta City Engineer Joe Tucker said he believes that the river gauge which sits at the mouth of the Muskingum River leading into the Ohio River is reading correctly, after concerns during high water events earlier this year.

“I have confidence in the U.S. Geological Survey data,” he said Monday afternoon. “As far as I know what issues we had (in the winter flooding) have been repaired.”

But he said he is concerned about potential damage to roads affected by landslips from the February rain event.

“Landslips can start moving again if they haven’t been secured, and new ones can form with this additional rain,” he said. “We needed rain but not this much. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that those other storms later in the week and into next week misses us.”

Marietta is predicted to reach minor flood stage on the Ohio River by 8 p.m. today at 35 feet and reach 36 feet by 8 a.m. Wednesday.

At 35 feet flooding appears on the road at Pike Street at Wayne, Elmwood Avenue and Greene Street, and at the center of Don Drumm Field.

At 36 feet Pike Street at the entrance to Phillips Elementary School sees water and Elmwood Avenue and Hart Street start to flood. Second and Third Streets between Greene and Butler also flood.

National Weather Service projections Monday afternoon put the crest for the Ohio River at Parkersburg at 35.9 feet by 8 a.m. Wednesday, with it scheduled to drop after that.

Organizers of Paddlefest and Riverfest, two downtown Parkersburg events centered on the river and Point Park, announced they were canceling the events in light of current conditions, projections and the possibility of more rain after Hurricane Florence makes landfall. That’s expected to happen Thursday on the coast of North or South Carolina, and predictions call for heavy rainfall all the way to the Mountain State, the Associated Press reported.

“The safety of our participants and spectators is of utmost importance,” said Mark Lewis, president and CEO of the Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau and one of the organizers of Paddlefest.

Even in a best-case scenario, he said, river flows wouldn’t allow for safe conditions.

“Everything’s saturated so if any rain comes in Thursday … it’s just going to bring the rivers back up,” Lewis said. “We hate to do it but we think it’s the right decision.”

The Riverfest 2018 Facebook page noted the flooding this weekend sent many of the participating sternwheelers back “to the safety of their home harbors.” In addition, water was steadily rising at Point Park Monday morning, and the cleanup process won’t be quick or easy, they said.

“It is unfair of us to try to expect the employees of the city to do a week’s worth of work in three days,” the post says.

Jeff Baughan, Evan Bevins, Michael Kelly, Janelle Patterson and Wayne Towner contributed.

To check Ohio River flood levels at Marietta: