High water hits region

Some weekend events canceled

Several rows of the seats of the Point Park amphitheater were underwater Monday afternoon as the Ohio River continued to climb, although the rain had stopped. A crest of nearly 38 feet is predicted sometime between today and Wednesday. Flood stage in Parkersburg is 36 feet. (Photo by Jeff Baughan)

PARKERSBURG — Continuing rains on Monday prompted some schools to close early, while the prospect of a hurricane sending more precipitation toward the Mid-Ohio Valley led to the cancellation of upcoming events.

Pleasants County and Frontier Local schools sent their students home early Monday with the ability to run all their bus routes on the usual schedule in question.

“The water was rising faster than expected along the backwaters and back routes,” Pleasants County Superintendent Mike Wells said. “We have alternative routes for drivers to take, but the water was coming up too fast. Our concern (Monday) was getting the students home safely.”

Wells said whether to have school “is going to be a day-to-day decision. We’re going to see how and when the river crests. The rain was supposed to quit Monday morning but that didn’t happen.”

Frontier Superintendent Brian Rentsch said the high school dismissed at noon Monday, with New Matamoras and Newport elementaries closing at 12:30 p.m., allowing all students to have lunch before they went home.

Water flows over the top of a car that got trapped in the North Fork of Lee Creek near Lubeck Monday after the driver attempted to drive through high water that covered part of Cain Hill Road. Officials were searching for the driver who they believed walked away from the area. (Photo by Art Smith)

“(Monday) morning our transportation coordinator checked the roads, and they looked in great shape to start school. The rain was supposed to have subsided, but we reassessed the back roads and the creeks,” Rentsch said. “Some of the creeks were over their banks, and at that point we had to dismiss early.”

The district, having determined the Ohio River was at 39.5 feet, also pre-emptively canceled school for today.

“We’re going to err on the side of caution, and reassess things (today) for Wednesday,” Rentsch said.

The Wood County Sheriff’s Office investigated a vehicle in a creek in the Wadesville Road area between Lubeck and Belleville on Monday afternoon. Chief Deputy Robert Sims said Stephen Small, 39, of Belleville, was taking his car in for work when its engine stalled beside a creek at Cain Hill on Wadesville Road and wouldn’t restart.

Small was attempting to push the vehicle away from the flooding creek when rising water swept him off his feet and began moving the vehicle, Sims said. Small escaped injury and the vehicle was pushed by the water for some distance, he said.

The gazebo at Point Park is partially submerged Monday morning as the rising waters of the Ohio River met with the Little Kanawha River. The Ohio River is expected to crest sometime late tonight or early Wednesday about two feet above flood stage in Parkersburg, near the 38-foot mark. (Photo by Jeff Baughan)

There were also reports of water over portions of Core Road and Laurel Creek Road near Parkersburg, Stillwell Road in the Kanawha area and at Oak Grove and Walker Road near Staunton Turnpike, according to the Wood County 911 Center’s Facebook page, as well as isolated incidents of road slips and trees down.

“We are keeping watch on the Ohio River projections,” 911 Director Rick Woodyard said. “I’m supposed to get an updated brief mid-morning and we’ll go from that.”

Woodyard said Monday afternoon Wood County was not anticipating problems along the Little Kanawha River, “but the creeks are up in the area along the river, so we are keeping watch on that as well.”

“What the people along the Ohio River need to do is start making those precautionary flooding plans,” said Woodyard. “We’re not looking at a crest until (today) or Wednesday.”

In Washington County, Sheriff Larry Mincks said his team was prepared for flooding, but as of Monday afternoon only two road closures due to high water had been reported — at 20470 Ohio 60 and the 1.5 milepost on County Road 9.

The “dedicated fishing area” along Point Park was underwater early Monday morning as was most of the area as the rising Ohio River has put a stop to weekend scheduled activities and festivals in Parkersburg. (Photo by Jeff Baughan)

The Muskingum River at McConnelsville is predicted to reach action stage, 9 feet, by 8 a.m. Wednesday but at Beverly, farther downriver, the swell of 24.9 feet at that time is still below action stage.

Marietta City Engineer Joe Tucker said he believes the river gauge which sits at the mouth of the Muskingum River leading into the Ohio River is reading correctly.

“I have confidence in the U.S. Geological Survey data,” he said Monday afternoon. “As far as I know, what issues we had (in the winter flooding) have been repaired.”

But he is concerned about potential damage to roads affected by landslips from the February rain event.

“Landslips can start moving again if they haven’t been secured, and new ones can form with this additional rain,” he said. “We needed rain but not this much. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that those other storms later in the week and into next week (miss) us.”

Ducks swim through parking barriers along the Ohio River at the lower Civitan Park parking area in Belpre Monday afternoon as the rising waters put most of the facility under water. (Photo by Jeff Baughan)

Marietta is predicted to reach minor flood stage on the Ohio River by 8 p.m. today at 35 feet and reach 36 feet by 8 a.m. Wednesday.

At 35 feet, flooding appears on Stark Street at Seventh Street, Pike Street at Wayne, Elmwood Avenue and Greene Street, and at the center of Don Drumm Field.

At 36 feet, Pike Street at the entrance to Phillips Elementary School sees water. Elmwood Avenue, Hart Street, Eighth Street at Ohio and Second and Third Streets between Greene and Butler flood.

National Weather Service projections Monday afternoon put the crest for the Ohio River at Parkersburg at 35.9 feet by 8 a.m. Wednesday, with it scheduled to drop after that.

Organizers of Paddlefest and Riverfest, two downtown Parkersburg events centered on the river and Point Park, announced they were canceling the events in light of current conditions, projections and the possibility of more rain after Hurricane Florence makes landfall. That’s expected to happen Thursday on the coast of North or South Carolina, and predictions call for heavy rainfall all the way to the Mountain State, the Associated Press reported.

“The safety of our participants and spectators is of utmost importance,” said Mark Lewis, president and CEO of the Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau and one of the organizers of Paddlefest.

Even in a best-case scenario, he said, river flows wouldn’t allow for safe conditions.

“Everything’s saturated so if any rain comes in Thursday … it’s just going to bring the rivers back up,” Lewis said. “We hate to do it but we think it’s the right decision.”

The Riverfest 2018 Facebook page noted the flooding this weekend sent many of the participating sternwheelers back “to the safety of their home harbors.” In addition, water was steadily rising at Point Park on Monday morning, and the cleanup process won’t be quick or easy.

“It is unfair of us to try to expect the employees of the city to do a week’s worth of work in three days,” the post said.

(Jeff Baughan, Evan Bevins, Michael Kelly, Janelle Patterson and Wayne Towner contributed to this story.)