Watchful Eyes on Ohio River

Mighty Ohio to Challenge Flood Stage

Tuesday marks the start of meteorological spring and that means the traditional beginning of the high water season on our rivers. You see the 3 coldest months are behind us (hence meteorological spring) and the wet season is here (March normally begins the rainiest period of the year, which can run 3-5 months depending on summer heat).

In this case, it is mostly rain water with a bit of snow melt from up north that is responsible for the rising tide. The sheer volume of water that has fallen in rain form recently has saturated the ground. Aided by the natural geology of Appalachia, that rain water has run down hill/down mountain into our streams in the valleys below. With the vegetation still dormant (trees are sleeping and not capable of soaking in rain water), the amount of runoff is at its peak for the year right now.

An aggregate 5 day running total of 2 to 5 inches of rain has set the stage for a second rise on the Mighty Ohio, a rise that may well breech flood stage in a few locations by Wednesday.

Tuesday will see a steady rise on the Ohio from the Belleville and Racine pools up north through the Byrd, Greenup and Meldalh pools downstream. Aided by waters flowing out of the Great Kanawha into the Mother River, the rise at Tu-Endie-Wei (Shawnee Indian speak for “mingling of the waters”, as in Kanawha and Ohio) State Park will be enough to breech flood stage by Wednesday at Point Pleasant.

As waters lap onto the Battle Monument Park steps, they will start to flow downstream toward Huntington where a crest some 5-10 feet higher than this past weekend will gobble up the entire Harris Riverfront Park amphitheatre.

If you have ever watched Picnic with the Pops or enjoyed Freedomfest on the riverbank, the water will cover where the vendors set up. Still no need to close the flood gates, as waters will be 5-10 feet too low to worry about a major flood.

After Huntington, the water is heading toward the Greenup pool and finally Portsmouth in the Meldahl pool where it will be joined by waters coming out of the Scioto. That means the Boone Coleman farmlands will be submerged a fathom deep in spots.

Naturally, all tributaries into the Ohio will experience major back water problems this week.

Here’s a neat tool to track the crest and how it will affect your area, courtesy of the National Weather Service web page. Just click on your location and a specifically tailored hydrograph will pop up.
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