Ohio Valley Breathes Sigh of Relief as River, Creeks Stay in Their Banks

James Davis, left, and Denise Whipkey, both of Wheeling, check out the Ohio River at Heritage Port Sunday while Whipkey walks her dog, Dexter. Photo by Shelley Hanson

WHEELING — Thanks to less rain than expected, creeks and streams in the area didn’t flood as anticipated over the weekend — and the Ohio River is expected to crest below flood stage today.

Lou Vargo, Wheeling-Ohio County Emergency Management Agency director, said there was no creek flooding in Wheeling or Ohio County Sunday. At press time Sunday, Vargo said the Ohio River at Wheeling was expected to crest at 34.9 feet, which is below the city’s flood stage of 36 feet.

“It will go down gradually and by Friday morning it will be down to 27 feet,” Vargo said. “I’m happy for everyone that it wasn’t worse than originally predicted.”

He noted there is not much rain in the forecast during the next week for the region. This is good news for many Ohio Valley residents who still are cleaning up from the last round of flooding.

Creek flooding that began Feb. 15 wreaked havoc on many Ohio Valley roads and hillsides, in addition to causing basement flooding and backups. It was followed up by Ohio River flooding that weekend.

The Short Creek and North Fork areas of Ohio County were hit especially hard by flash flooding. Vargo said 75 homes were impacted during that storm. Some houses were damaged and most had water in their basements. None were destroyed.

Vargo said damage assessment teams from West Virginia EMA are expected to visit homes in the Short Creek and North Fork areas this week. They are compiling information to take back to Gov. Jim Justice.

Dave Ivan, Belmont County EMA director, said his county also did not experience additional creek flooding as originally expected.

“We anticipated problems last night and we didn’t get them — and that’s a good thing,” Ivan said. “I checked the rain gauge … and there was only a quarter of an inch in it.”

In terms of road damage from previous flooding this month, Ivan said there are damaged culverts and embankment failures on various roads countywide. There are no county-maintained roads that are completely closed, though some are down to one lane, he added. Ivan mentioned the Barton and Colerain areas as those hit especially hard. Most of the past Ohio River flooding occurred in the Powhatan area, he said.

Ivan noted some people have called the EMA for help with flood cleanup, but those who are accustomed to dealing with the aftermath usually know what to do on their own.

“We do have equipment within the county supplied to us by the Red Cross that we can get to them, such as mops, buckets and squeegees,” Ivan said.

In the village of Bellaire, a portion of Washington Street between the 26th Street extension and Wagner Avenue is closed until further notice because of embankment failure.

Another embankment failure in Bellaire also has forced the closure of West 23rd Street/Ohio 147. The areas impacted are between South Guernsey and Winding Hill Road.

Village Administrator Scott Porter also noted on his Facebook page that Oak Alley at 35th Street south and 36th Street north, between Belmont and Guernsey streets, has a collapsed sewer. He asked residents to avoid that area.