River on the Rise; Island Residents to See Flooding
River Expected To Crest At 39.4 Feet at Pike Island Tuesday
WHEELING — Communities in the Upper Ohio Valley can expect minor to moderate flooding from the Ohio River by Tuesday, according to the latest weather predictions.
Big Wheeling Creek spilled its banks Sunday afternoon and other creeks around the region also began to rise. The National Weather Service in Pittsburgh issued a flood warning for several counties in Ohio and West Virginia.
Public school districts in Brooke and Hancock counties canceled classes today because high water covered some roadways, causing closures and affecting bus routes.
With additional rain falling today, the river was nearing flood stage at area reporting stations. As of 9 a.m. today, the river remained below flood stage from New Cumberland to Hannibal, but forecasters predicted that flood stage will be reached or exceeded later today.
According to current predictions, the river is anticipated to crest at 9 a.m. Tuesday with flooding at several locations expected in the moderate range.
At Pike Island Lock and Dam where flood stage is 37 feet, a reading of 31.98 feet was recorded at 9 a.m. today.
The river is expected to crest there at 39.4 feet, which is on the cusp of moderate flooding.
In Wheeling, the river was at 31.01 feet this morning, below the 36-foot flood stage. However, the crest is expected to be 39.6 feet, which gets water onto the southern end of Wheeling Island and also into the lower level of Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack.
At Moundsville where flood stage is 37 feet, a reading of 33.3 feet was recorded today. The river is expected to reach 41.1 feet, which is minor flood stage.
Minor flooding is predicted for Powhatan Point, where a crest of 39.5 feet is expected. Flood stage there is 37 feet.
At Hannibal Lock and Dam where flood stage is 35 feet, a reading of 25.85 feet was recorded today.
A crest of 37.5 feet is expected, in the moderate range of flooding (37 feet or higher).
Up river, a reading of 30.82 feet was reported today at New Cumberland Lock and Dam where flood stage is 36 feet. A crest of 38.8 feet is expected, just below the major flooding level of 39 feet.
In Steubenville where flood stage is 36 feet, the river had risen to 34 feet this morning. A crest of 37.8 feet is anticipated, just below the moderate level of flooding (38 feet).
In Wellsburg where flood stage also is 36 feet, the river reading was 35 feet at 9 a.m. A crest of 38.7 feet is expected, also below the moderate range of flooding (39 feet).
People throughout the area continued their efforts today to prepare for river flooding. Residents in other low-lying areas were dealing with flooding caused by rising creeks.
The rain is coming from the remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon. The weather service said Saturday that flooding could be worse on the Ohio River here than it has been in more than 13 years.
“There has already been 3 inches of rain and 2 more inches can be expected,” Michael Brown, a forecaster with the weather service, said late afternoon Sunday. “I am looking at 4 or 5 inches in total.”
In Ohio County, emergency officials were already dealing with some issues as a result of the storm.
Lou Vargo, Wheeling-Ohio County Homeland Security and Emergency Management director, said water had been spotted on Short Creek Road and several trees were down.
“We have extra team members ready to go and we did that planning on Friday,” Vargo said. “If you see a lot of fast-moving water, get away from it. Just turn around. If you are in a dangerous situation, get to high ground and call for help if needed.”
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday evening that water was on roads in the southern portion of the county. However, Jefferson County 911 said no roads had been closed by that time and that the flooding was not significant.
Some routes in Brooke County were closed because of water covering the roadways Sunday. Authorities in Monroe and Harrison counties both reported that they had not had any significant weather issues as of 6:30 p.m. Sunday. No serious weather-related problems were reported in Belmont, Marshall, Wetzel or Hancock counties, either. Officials in Tyler County could not be reached.
Residents weren’t taking any chances. For instance, McMechen was lined with sandbags that volunteers spent Saturday night into Sunday filling in preparation for a flood. Police Chief Don DeWitt said sandbags are available at the city building for residents who may need them.
Brett Ferro of McMechen walked the city streets to see what areas might be problem spots. “If this rain doesn’t stop, the flooding is going to be bad,” he said.
Joe Carney, who lives on Jims Run Road in McMechen, said he has lived in the city all his life and has experienced numerous floods. He said the worst flood he has lived through was in 1974; he said it did more damage than the remnants of Hurricane Ivan did in 2004. That storm caused significant damage throughout the valley and led to water rising on the river to 45 feet.
Carney said he worries the flooding this time will reach that point. He was making preparations Sunday afternoon along his road.
“I don’t want to see anyone get hurt by this going through here,” Carney said. “I’m out here cutting some limbs and moving them from the roads for people. The flooding gets really bad here. There’s not much you can do except for stay safe and prepare for it. You can’t control Mother Nature. This rain will do what it wants.”
Tom Hart, Marshall County director of emergency management, said law enforcement and fire departments have been keeping an eye on creeks and streams throughout the county.
“If you are out and about, do not drive through flooded roadways,” he said. “Keep an eye out for the flood warnings and proceed with caution.
“Residents who live near creeks usually know what to expect,” Hart said. “For those who are traveling through that are not familiar with roads like that, they need to be extra careful. No one should be putting themselves in a dangerous situation. We are supposed to get even more rain and people need to stay safe.”
Across the river, boat owners who usually have their crafts docked on the river at the Shadyside Marina spent Sunday taking them out of the water. Many of the boats are now on land with only three left docked as of Sunday afternoon.
Belmont County Sheriff David Lucas said no weather-related problems were occurring in the county as of about 1:30 p.m. Sunday. He said he had consulted with county Emergency Management Agency Director Dave Ivan, who informed him that no major issues had been reported.
“I spoke with Dave Ivan, and he said everything is good as of now,” Lucas said Sunday afternoon. “The creeks are up, but they are within their banks. The only problem has been a couple of culvert issues.”
Brown said the Ohio Valley can expect more rain going into today, but only a little rain is predicted for Tuesday and Wednesday.