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Emergency Officials Prepare for Flash Flooding

Water was moving swiftly Tuesday in Big Wheeling Creek under the walkway bridge near Wheeling University.

WHEELING — Emergency management agencies across the region are keeping a “close eye” on heavy rain that could bring flooding later today.

Emergency directors from West Virginia held a teleconference briefing Tuesday morning with state officials and meteorologists with the National Weather Service to learn more about the possibility for flash flooding predicted this afternoon into Thursday morning.

“We’ve been monitoring the rain and the (weather) event that is coming up through the rest of the week,” Ohio County Emergency Management Director Lou Vargo said. “We’re keeping a close eye on it.”

The weather service in Pittsburgh issued a flash flood watch from 4 p.m. today until 7 a.m. Thursday over concerns that recent rain coupled with additional precipitation could lead to flooding in creeks and streams. Ohio, Marshall and Wetzel counties in West Virginia and Belmont and Monroe in Ohio are among the dozens of counties in four states under a flash flood watch.

Marshall County Emergency Management Director Tom Hart said they’re expecting an inch to an inch-and-a-half of rain through Thursday morning, although the speed in which it falls could come determine whether there is flooding. His agency will be on “standby monitoring” the situation as it develops.

“That last batch of rain we got in the last couple of days we didn’t have any flooding issues, but the creeks and streams are running high and swift. That’s something we’re going to have to monitor,” Hart said. “We’ll have to wait and see what Mother Nature throws at us.”

The Ohio River is expected to rise to “action level” above 26.4 feet at the Pike Island Dam, although Vargo said that “shouldn’t cause any problems” because the flood stage there is 37 feet. But he said they are especially concerned about swollen creeks and streams.

“Any time there is a flash flood, our departments are checking our equipment, the fire departments will have everything ready,” Vargo said. “We’ll be vigilant and prepare to respond if needed.”

Gov. Jim Justice instructed county emergency officials to be ready for more flooding, and promised the state would be on standby if local governments need help.

“Because of the heavy rain predicted again this week, I’ve asked state agencies to be ready to respond,” Justice said in a written statement. “We stand united with our communities and are prepared to provide all possible resources if flooding should occur.”

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