The 39.4-foot projected crest for the Ohio River at Marietta on Sunday is the "worst-case-scenario," according to the National Weather Service but residents and business owners have begun scrambling to prepare for the high water.
At that level, the river is expected to be more of an inconvenience for motorists and residents living in the city's south and west sides, with little damage expected, according to police and business officials. Flood stage at Marietta is 35 feet.
By this evening, Pike Street, Virginia Street, Gilman Avenue and many other city streets are expected to be impacted. Many county roads began experiencing high water problems earlier in the week.
Traffic moves through high water on Gilman Avenue.
"The current forecast includes the rain that's fallen, current rain and what we expect the rest of (Thursday)," said John Sikora, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston, W.Va. "It appears we're getting less rain than we anticipated, so the crest might be a little less than what we have projected. We will be updating, but I believe this is the worst-case-scenario."
According to flood forecast models, the Ohio River at Marietta should be back within its banks by Monday night.
Sikora said the immediate threat of additional flooding after Sunday's crest is minimal.
Stephen Elder, left, and Mark Elder moved furniture out of the Crafter’s Paradise store on Front Street Thursday afternoon as flood warnings continued for Marietta’s downtown area this weekend.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
"It looks like we're in good shape though the weekend...after today and (Thursday's) snow I think we'll be in good shape," he said.
Bill Russell, 81, has dealt with high water at his Cornerville Road home, just outside Marietta, for over 40 years.
"At roughly 39 feet it starts to get in the basement," Russell said. "I'm trying to get an idea of how high it's going to get so I can move my hot water tank and take care of my furnace."
Russell said he was surprised to find water from the Little Muskingum River had already climbed across the road in front of his home by Thursday morning.
"I always park a car down by the bridge so I can get out if I need to," he said. "I went to bed thinking there's no way it was going to get on the road before (Thursday). But it did. It came up fast. The good news is that I can always find someone to get me something if I need it."
The last major Ohio River flooding in Marietta occurred in September 2004 and January 2005, when the river reached 44.97 and 43.3 feet, respectively.
Marietta Police Capt. Jeff Waite said city crews will close roads as they become affected.
"Traffic is going to be the big thing," Waite said. "We'll have officers out trying to keep things moving."
Downtown was busy Thursday with people moving items out of basements of the businesses. In a few cases, people were clearing out their entire stores. City officials made sand bags available at the Parking Partners Lot to businesses or residents who felt they may benefit.
"If this flood is 40 feet or less, it's going to be an inconvenience and a cost, but not a loss of inventory for many in the downtown area," said Charlotte Keim, president of the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce. "Anything over 40 feet and some buildings will start seeing water inside their sales floors, and then we're talking a much larger economic loss and impact."
By noon on Thursday, water had found its way into the basement of Sorelle of Marietta at 216 Front St.
Just across Front Street and down the block a bit, employees and volunteers were removing displays and other items from the basement of Twisted Sisters, whose owners also own Sorelle.
"Here we go again," said Donna Finkle, an employee of Sorelle who was arranging the items in a truck.
Even as preparations were being made for the rising water, customers continued to shop in Twisted Sisters.
"We're helping out by buying on a day like this because business has got to keep going," laughed Susie Baker, 48, of Caldwell. "And we'll just move out of the way as the loads go out."
Rod Zide, president of Zide's Sport Shop, 253 Second St., said employees were working to move merchandise, computers and other items to the upper three levels of the company's building Thursday. The store is expected to remain open today, but Zide said Saturday will depend on how high the water gets.
"At some point, the roads close and getting in and out of downtown Marietta becomes a challenge," he said, adding that he doesn't want any employees to risk injury coming to or from work.
After Rossi Pasta took a major loss when the company's former warehouse on Ohio street was flooded in 2004, workers there on Thursday said they weren't taking any chances.
"We cleaned out the basement a couple of days ago," said Steve Keiser, who was helping move store stock out of Rossi Pasta on Front Street Thursday afternoon. "Anyone who's been through this knows you have to be ready. The 2004 flood just about put us out of business."
Debbie Elder at Crafter's Paradise, one of the newer stores on Front Street, said she couldn't afford to take any chances with possible flooding.
"I'm not losing any of this inventory," she said as she helped staff and family members move boxes of merchandise, shelving and furniture onto a U-Haul van.
"I was lucky to get the van," Elder said. "A half hour after I called they were sold out."
Evan Bevins and Sam Shawver contributed.