NWS: River won’t cross flood stage

PARKERSBURG – The Ohio River at Parkersburg is forecast to crest at 32 feet, two feet below flood stage, late Saturday night or early Sunday morning following expected thunderstorms, officials said Wednesday night.

The Mid-Ohio Valley is forecast to receive one-half to three-quarters inch of rain through Thursday evening, Joe Merchant, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston, said Wednesday. This amount will be higher depending on the number of thunderstorms that hit the region, he said.

“As the boundary moves east and the storms pass, rain will settle in behind it,” Merchant said.

Rising river levels prompted the move of the W.P. Snyder Jr. sternwheeler Wednesday from its temporary mooring at the confluence of the Muskingum and Ohio rivers in Marietta to Neale Marine in Vienna.

The Snyder had been moored there temporarily since its return to Marietta a week ago following repairs at a dry dock in Henderson, W.Va. The water level in the Muskingum River has been too high to allow the 95-year-old boat and its towboat to safely pass under the Putnam Bridge and make it to the Ohio River Museum, officials said.

Wednesday evening storms entering the Mid-Ohio Valley encountered an updraft along the Ohio River, which caused them to weaken before entering West Virginia, Merchant said. Areas in Wood and Wirt counties received heavy rainfall, but little damage was reported, Merchant said.

As of 10 p.m., the most severe weather in the Mid-Ohio Valley was reported in Doddridge County. Four trees and a minor mudslide on a backroad accompanied downed phone lines and pea-sized hail throughout Doddridge County, the 911 Center said.

In Ohio, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office reported wet conditions with lightning in the area, but said that no significant damage had been reported.

The flood predictions do not take any potential thunderstorms into account, Merchant said. The forecast river crest point of 32 feet is still two feet below the action flooding stage, said Merchant.

The action stage for this area of the Ohio River is listed as 34 feet, according to the National Weather Service website. At the action stage, the river will be near its banks but not flooding anywhere except low-lying areas, the website said.

A flood watch remains in effect for Wood County and surrounding areas through 8 a.m. Friday, Merchant said. The Ohio River was at 18 feet on Wednesday afternoon, Merchant said. With the expected rain across the region through Friday morning, the river is expected to rise between 10-15 feet over the next few days, Merchant said.

The National Weather Service does not expect the river to reach minor flooding stages at this time, Merchant said.

Residents of the MOV are encouraged to stay alert for emergency tones and updates from the National Weather Service throughout the rest of the week, Merchant said. Flood watches can turn into flood warnings quickly, and being alert and aware saves lives, Merchant said.

“Access would be a problem with the way the mooring is,” Fred Smith, architect for the Ohio History Connection, said about the W.P. Snyder Jr.

“It would be hard to maintain the mooring of the barge. It really isn’t a good permanent mooring, so it’s actually a relief that they are moving it,” Smith said.

Smith said it is hard to speculate when the Snyder will make its way back to the Ohio River Museum.

(Amanda Nicholson of The Marietta Times contributed to this report.)