Ask Josh Fitzpatrick: Will the Ohio River Freeze Again?

It's been more than three decades since the mighty Ohio River froze over and Meteorologist Josh Fitzpatrick takes a look back at what caused it and if it'll happen again soon.

I received a great question from a viewer by the name Kathy Gilbert who lived in the Cincinnati, Ohio area during the super cold winter of 1976-1977.  She asks: "Will the Ohio River freeze again or this winter?"

You see, Kathy, like many locals here during that winter, experienced the Ohio River frozen over from bank to bank!  She also e-mailed me a photo she took in 1977 of the Ohio completely frozen in the Queen City.

I got some photos from Keith Barker, who writes "I was reading your blog and decided I would send you some pictures of the Ohio River during the winter of 1977.  They were all taken at the boat dock in Ashland by my dad."  (Photo's below)


 Those are awesome shots!  These photos are rare and I appreciate Keith sending them in to share with us.

So back to the answer, will the Ohio freeze over this winter?  The quick answer is no! 

Even if a colder weather pattern sets in this month and January, our temperatures won't dip any where near the string of subfreezing and subzero days we had during that winter.   So don't look for the the river to freeze over anytime soon.  An extraordinary number of factors must come into play to make the rive freeze.

In 1977, Huntington hit temperatures as low as -25 at one point in January.  That winter we spent about 28 days at or below freezing and zero.  The combination of extreme cold for an extended period of time coincided with a period of low flow according to the hydrologists at the National Weather Service (people who track river and stream levels), which caused the freeze. 

Many think the river won't freeze again because it's to polluted.  That's not the case.  Actually the river is a lot cleaner today than it was in the 1970s due to E.P.A. regulations.  Also, there's a lot more barge traffic and the Ohio is deeper these days due to many more Locks and Dams and dredging.

The river won't freeze this winter but I'm sure it will again one day.

Do you remember that winter and the river froze over?  Share your stories by posting them in the comment section below.

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