Eyes on Ohio River

Wednesday Rains Will Affect Mighty Ohio

On this Tuesday evening it is becoming more apparent that the Ohio River will be stressed toward flood stage this later this week. The mighty river is running higher than normal after a week of melting snows has kept levels at a high stage. Thank rains of early March for laying the foundation for a likely flood stage crest later this week.

Officially my colleagues from the National Weather Service have signaled out Southern Ohio as the zone most likely to experience flooding on Wednesday. The region from Fountain Square in Cincinnati to the “Shoe” in Columbus to Oglebay Park in Wheeling is likely to measure as much as 4 inches of rain by Wednesday night. This puts the Scioto and Hocking Valleys of Ohio and the Zaleski State Forest of Vinton County on the fringe of the heaviest rains. A slight shift to the south and this area could be under water.

The Scioto River of Ohio has been in flood for the better part of 2 weeks already. Now heavy rains at the Scioto headwaters near Columbus will wash down toward Portsmouth and send the Scioto as much as 5-8 feet out of its banks (so says the computerized prediction from the National Weather Service’s sophisticated model).

Two other rivers likely to go into flood include the Hocking River thru Athens County and the Muskingum River thru Washington County Ohio. Folks living in the Nelsonville-Chauncy-Guysville section of Athens County, you know the drill. Road closures are likely as the Hocking and its tributaries spill out of their banks.

Finally, all this water must flow somewhere and that means the main stem of the Ohio will be on the rise. It’s never easy to say that the Ohio will go into flood until we figure out how much rain has fallen over the Ohio basin. So let’s just say interests along the muddy Ohio should prepare for water levels higher than what was reached 2 weeks ago.

That will undoubtedly lead to a lot of backwater problems on feeder streams into the Ohio including the Chickamauga Creek in Gallia County (sorry Blue Devil baseballers, your diamond is about to get swamped again), the Guyandotte River all the way thru Alhitzer to Barboursville in Cabell County and the Little Sandy in Greenup County.

That brings us downstream to Alexandria Point in West Portsmouth where a rising Ohio will team with the swollen Scioto to create a mess on the west side of Portsmouth.

Here’s a link to the NWS supercomputer that forecasts flood crests. Just click on the river and town near you.


As for the rest of the region including the southern Coalfields and Kanawha Valley, heavy rains will cause rises on your streams (including the Kanawha, Coal, Guyandotte, Mud, Tug, Levisa and Russell Forks. But since this will be a one not two day rain event in this region, serious flooding is less likely.

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