Rising rivers a worry for region

PARKERSBURG – With rain in the forecast and slightly higher temperatures resulting in the breaking up of the frozen river in the Parkersburg area, officials are keeping an eye on the situation.

A flood watch was issued by the National Weather Service in Charleston beginning 8 p.m. Tuesday and running through noon today for the Mid-Ohio Valley.

“We’ll be monitoring the river levels all through the night,” Wood County Emergency Management Director Ed Hupp said Tuesday afternoon.

The water level is forecast to peak below flood stage on the Little Kanawha River, he said.

In addition to water levels, Hupp said there can sometimes be a problem caused by ice jams as the ice layer on a river breaks up and is carried downstream.

Some jamming appeared to be starting in the Happy Valley area of Wood County Tuesday afternoon, a common occurrence because of the Interstate 77 bridge and the curve of the Little Kanawha River at that point.

Hupp said he also was receiving reports of ice on the Little Kanawha River in the Wilderness Valley area farther upstream from Happy Valley.

At least one homeowner in Happy Valley was concerned with the ice flow Tuesday on the Little Kanawha River.

“This is a lot more serious than it appears,” said R.C. “Heck” Heckert.

The ice flow was about 14-miles long and started flowing Tuesday morning until it stopped short of the I-77 bridge, Heckert said. The river flows around 2 mph and it looked like a glacier coming down the river, he said.

“You could actually see slivers of ice come up on the beach,” Heckert said.

The flow was damaging docks on the river and could threaten other property when it flows up the banks, including residences, Heckert, who owns Broadway Marina, said.

Nothing will stop it, Heckert said. He’s also concerned what the impact would be if the river level rises.

“There’s no fix to it,” Heckert said. “Mother Nature takes its course.”

Vienna city officials were concerned about the possibility of ice jams along Pond Run causing flooding, said public works director Craig Metz.

“The frost line is currently 28 inches deep in Vienna,” Metz said. “All of this rain is just going to run right off and into Pond Run,” he said Tuesday.

Vienna employees spent Tuesday clearing as many storm drain areas of snow as possible, but they were not able to get to all of them, Metz said. Minor street flooding is expected throughout Vienna with the rain, he said.

In Washington County, Sheriff Larry Mincks said officials will be monitoring the main waterways as they run along roadways like Ohio 26, Ohio 821 and Ohio 60, along with the township roads in those areas and known low-water spots. As of Tuesday afternoon, some of the ice had started to break up and there were concerns about ice jams causing water to back up in the backwater areas, he said.

“That’s something we will be watching,” Mincks said.

In the flood watch issued Tuesday, the weather service said the ground is saturated at the surface and frozen farther down. A storm system was forecast to move through the area overnight and this morning, bringing with it the possibility of rainfall amounts of up to one or one-and-a-half inches.

The rain was expected to begin Tuesday night in Ohio and Kentucky and then end this morning in West Virginia and southwest Virginia.

The recent snow cover could melt and add to the runoff and there is still ice on streams, creeks and rivers, the weather service said. If the rain occurs, small streams and creeks could flood first, swelling the rivers.

A flood watch announcement means there is a potential for flooding based on forecasts. The weather service recommends that people living or driving along flood-prone small streams should heighten their weather awareness and keep abreast of the latest forecasts.

If significant rain occurs, those people should monitor stream levels, even during the late night and early morning hours. People should be alert for possible flood warnings, have a plan ready and be prepared to take action should flooding develop.

In addition to the flood watch, the weather service also issued a winter weather advisory for the Mid-Ohio Valley covering from 5 p.m. Tuesday until 10 a.m. today.

Sleet and freezing rain were in the forecast with ice accumulations up to two-tenths of an inch possible and snow accumulations up to one inch. Hazardous travel conditions were considered possible because of the reduced visibility and snow, with sleet and ice accumulations possibly occurring on untreated roads.

As of 10 p.m. Tuesday, Wood and Doddridge counties, along with Marietta City Schools, were operating on a two-hour delay, while Pleasants, Ritchie and Tyler counties canceled classes for the day.

Today’s forecast from the weather service calls for a chance of rain before 1 p.m., then a slight chance of rain and snow showers between 1-4 p.m. today. The chance of precipitation is 40 percent today. Conditions are expected to be cloudy with a low around 20 this evening.