River rising: Wood County awaits arrival of Florence

Wood County awaits arrival of Florence

PARKERSBURG — The area could experience minor flooding after a few days of rain, but officials are looking at what impacts Hurricane Florence could have once it makes landfall in the Carolinas later this week.

“The phrase of the day is ‘Be Prepared,'” said Wood County 911 Director Rick Woodyard.

After about three to four days of rain in the region, the National Weather Service in Charleston is reporting the possibility of flooding along the Ohio River at Marietta, Willow Island and Belleville as the river is expected to just reach above flood stage in areas.

By late in the week and into the weekend, Hurricane Florence is expected to impact the eastern United States.

”The potential exists for significant rainfall to return to our region by early next week,” the weather service reported. ”However, the path of Florence, and hence where the heavy rainfall may occur, continues to remain uncertain.”

Woodyard said they are getting regular briefings everyday. Many estimates are still being worked out and seem to change regularly. However, people should prepare for wind and rain, he said.

“The brisk winds from Hurricane Florence are expected to arrive here by 8 p.m. Thursday night,” he said. “By 8 p.m. Friday, winds around 39 miles per hour are predicted to have arrived. The average of 30-40 knots (34-46 miles an hour) is what is predicted.”

The ground is saturated from the rain received over the past few days.

”If we get more rain it is going to cause us more issues,” Woodyard said. ”With Florence coming in, the winds will be just as much a danger as the rain. We could see as much damage from wind as rain. Precautionary planning for this should include preparing for power outages as well as rain totals.”

The Little Kanawha River at Glenville crested at almost 15 feet, about 8 feet below floodstage, at 12:45 p.m. Monday, according to the weather service.

The Little Kanawha River at Grantsville crested at 20.05 feet at about midnight Tuesday. According to the National Weather Service’s 5 p.m. reading Tuesday, the river was at 11.8 feet. Flood stage in Grantsville is 36 feet.

The Little Kanawha River at Elizabeth crested at approximately 8 a.m. Tuesday at 20.34 feet.

According to the National Weather Service’s 5 p.m. Tuesday reading, the river was at 19.1 feet. Flood stage in Elizabeth is 36 feet.

“If we can get through a couple more days without rain, that would help greatly,” Woodyard said. “When the Ohio (River) crests and starts to drop, the Little Kanawha River will empty quickly here. However, the ground is so saturated right now, it can’t and won’t take much more.

“If we don’t have any more rain, what you see is about all we’ll get. Happy Valley is dry with several feet to spare. The Edgelawn Campground is dry but only has about two feet to spare.”

When the Ohio River hits 37 or 38 feet, then it becomes trouble, Woodyard said.

“It’s not supposed to get there but the projections are changing constantly so people have to be aware of the conditions around them,” he said.

People need to also be mindful of what is happening to the north of this area along the Ohio River.

“If you see something happening in Pittsburgh, then you have about a day to get ready for it here,” Woodyard said. ”Whatever happens in Wheeling, you have about 12 hours to prepare.

”The Muskingum River puts an awful lot of water in the Ohio River at Marietta and a lot of water will be emptying from the Little Kanawha.”

Gov. Jim Justice issued a State of Preparedness in advance of Hurricane Florence for the entire state. The governor has instructed all state agencies to exercise their appropriate authorities associated with this State of Preparedness.

Woodyard advises that people in flood-prone areas should be ready to evacuate if needed.

”Be conscious of the weather and be abreast of what is going on,” he said. ”It changes hourly with what is going on. Just be ready to roll if you have to.”