Volunteers help downtown Marietta shops prepare for high water

Photo by Jeffrey Saulton Several stores along Front Street were preparing for flood water Saturday by moving merchandise out or putting blocks under displays to lift them above anticipated water levels. Others sandbagged their entrances such as Peddler of Dreams Art Space for Children, left, and Dad’s Primitive Workshop, right.

MARIETTA — Volunteers converged on shops in downtown Marietta on Saturday as the Ohio River crest levels predicted by the National Weather Service in Charleston increased first to 38.7 feet and then to more than 40 feet during the afternoon.

“This is the meaning of community,” said Sylvi Caporale as more than 50 residents, high school soccer players, college students and other local business owners moved flags and poles upstairs in her store, moved shelving out and carried large furniture up the street to Putnam Community Church.

The Washington County Alert System sent out a text just after noon Saturday stating that the Ohio River’s crest prediction was raised to 40.1 feet and notifying local residents that parts of Front, Second, Greene, and Putnam streets were closed to allow for merchants like Caporale and others to move out their wares and for residents to move their belongings.

According to the weather service, Marietta is considered in a major flood at 40 feet.

Ohio, Hart, Putnam, South Seventh, Charles, Pike, Walnut, Stone and Virginia streets were also closed with the rising waters and Gilman Avenue’s coverage grew as Saturday morning passed with both the college and high school boathouses’ bays filling with water and the Rotary pavilion on the west side nearly underwater entirely by mid-afternoon.

Photo by Wayne Towner As of late Saturday afternoon, Point Park was mostly under water as the Ohio River continued to rise above its flood stage at 36 feet. The river is expected to crest at 40.1 feet about 8 a.m. today.

The weather service also revised its forecast for the Ohio River at Parkersburg from 39.4 feet to 40.1 feet, with the crest occurring around 8 a.m. today. The river level is expected to recede back below flood stage around 4 p.m. Monday.

The Little Kanawha River at Elizabeth had already crested early Saturday afternoon at 32 feet, four feet below flood stage, and was receding, the weather service reported.

In addition to the river flooding, Saturday afternoon also so the area socked with heavy snowfall which made roadways slick and treacherous. Area law enforcement agencies responded to numerous accidents throughout the region as traffic slowed to a crawl in some areas due to accidents and road conditions.

In downtown Marietta, City Councilman Mike McCauley came down Saturday to lend a hand with work gloves, a jacket and jeans on lifting alongside George Broughton, Melissa Arnold and Vicki Ayers.

“It’s my ward so of course I’d be here, it’s that simple,” said McCauley. “The first flood I remember was in 1948. I remember getting in the flood boat with my grandfather and we rowed out to County House Lane to cut the wires so the cows could get out of the fence to higher ground.”

Photo by Janelle Patterson Marietta City Councilman Mike McCauley works Saturday with other volunteers to move furniture out of American Flags and Poles on Front Street in downtown Marietta.

Higher ground was indeed the goal for downtown merchants as Jeremiah’s Coffee House closed its doors and put out a plea for individuals to move their cars from Post Street.

There were even a few cars parked in water in the Armory parking lot as the Muskingum River continued to rise.

Others posted on social media photos of the Boathouse BBQ underwater on the west side, panoramic views of rising docks at the boat club and trees making their way downriver.

Then snow began falling after 1 p.m. Saturday.

Bill White, CEO of Offenberger and White, said local residents and businesses shouldn’t panic about more precipitation downtown.

Photo by Jeffrey Saulton By late Saturday afternoon water levels on the Muskingum River came close to covering the Harmar Bridge.

“That’s not what is going to raise the water levels here, if there’s rain up north and it flows down that’s what will raise it,” he said noting Saturday morning that his business on Fort Street facing the Muskingum from Harmar had yet to see water. “And these benchmarks can change as the topography changes as dirt gets moved around or things get built out on the Pike … We ride it out and try to stay dry and our breakers are placed higher.”

He said he had spent the weekend guiding friends who are experiencing the rivers flooding for the first time.

“I was talking with Jennifer Sturgill (owner of Green Acres in the 100 block of Front Street) and she was worried, this is her first flood. But a bunch of Veritas (Academy) kids went in and moved her things out of the basement,” he said.

Others simply came down to Marietta to lend a hand.

“They were kind to me when I forgot my phone during First Friday,” said Amy Stapp, of Cambridge, after lifting wooden shelves, desks, cabinets and benches out of American Flags and Poles and carrying them around the corner and up Putnam Street. “I thought since I was already in Marietta for a dentist appointment why not come and pay that kindness back.”

Photo by Wayne Towner The Little Kanawha River, as seen over the floodgate at Third Street in downtown Parkersburg, had not yet reached the gate around noon Saturday. The Ohio River nearby is expected to crest at 40.1 feet (flood stage is 36 feet) today.

George Broughton brought truckloads of displays from the store up to his complex on Ohio 821.

“I’m just helping a friend since my property is dry,” he said. “We’ve been through this many times with book stores, Brownies, it’s just what you do, when you have the space you help.”

In Charleston, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice issued a state of emergency for West Virginia’s 55 counties due to flooding. Justice issued the state of emergency early Saturday after heavy rain triggered flooding in multiple locations.

The weather service said rain mixed with snow was falling in northern West Virginia on Saturday. Precipitation was expected to continue throughout the weekend.

The State Emergency Operations Center was on enhanced watch status. The National Guard was put on stand-by for potential mobilization to help emergency agencies.

Photo by Jeffrey Saulton The parking lot, boat ramp and concession building at the Williamstown Marina were fully submerged by the Ohio River on Saturday afternoon.