PARKERSBURG - A low pressure system bringing more rain to the Mid-Ohio Valley this week will cause the Ohio River to rise and crest this weekend, likely above flood stage.
The National Weather Service in Charleston issued a flood watch and hazardous weather outlook for Wood and Washington counties until this evening. The Mid-Ohio Valley is expected to receive between one and two inches of rain.
"This system will be bringing rain and possibly snow on Thursday before the area starts to dry out on Friday," said Ray Young, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
rain and high water
On Wednesday, the National Weather Service predicted the Ohio River in Parkersburg would crest around 1 a.m. Sunday at 37.9 feet, just below moderate flood stage of 38 feet. Flood stage in Parkersburg is 36 feet.
In Marietta, the river is expected to crest at the same time at 36.8 feet. Flood stage in Marietta is 35 feet.
"It's possible the river could crest above or below these numbers. It's a little uncertain right now because these levels are based on our predictions. Actual crest levels could be anywhere from 35 to 38 feet," Young said.
Photo by Kate York
As parents pick up their children at Phillips Elementary in Marietta Wednesday, two ducks cross the road to reach a flooded field next to the school.
"It's all based on this front. If the heavy rain shifts on the map just a little, it could make a huge difference."
Young said cresting levels in Parkersburg are challenging to predict because of the large amounts of water that drain into the Ohio River from northern areas.
"The river levels depend a lot on the northern states and how much rain they get. All of that flows into the Ohio River and on down to Parkersburg," he said.
Just The Facts
The National Weather Service in Charleston Wednesday predicted the Ohio River to crest at 37.9 feet in Parkersburg, just below moderate flood stage, around 1 a.m. Sunday.
River levels are constantly updated and reported based on predictions and expected rainfall.
The Parkersburg Public Works Department is prepared to close flood gates.
By Wednesday evening, Wood County had received nearly an inch of rain, with another inch or two expected to fall before Friday.
Parkersburg Public Works Director Jerry Edman said the city was prepared to operate the four flood gates.
"We will close the 12th Street flood gate when the river level reaches 33.6 feet. We'll also close the Point Park flood gate when the water reaches 35.4 feet," Edman said. "We are ready to move when we need to, and we are constantly monitoring the river levels."
The 12th Street gate is a steel-powered motorized gate, while the Point Park gate is manually installed.
"It takes six men about two hours to install the Point Park flood gate," he said. "The logs are ready to go in the log house right by the gate. I don't anticipate any big problems."
Sheila Rhodes, general manager of the Lafayette Hotel on Front Street in Marietta, said she and others at the hotel are keeping an eye on the river. The hotel's basement, where there's a banquet room and storage room that holds paperwork, floods when the river reaches 36 feet.
"(Thursday) morning, we're going to look at the levels and see if we need to take steps to move some things from the lower floor," she said. "Our chief engineer has been here for 20-plus years, so he kind of has a feel for when you need to start worrying about it."
Tom Perry, director of college relations at Marietta College, said officials will cover the field and the track at Don Drumm Stadium on Greene Street today.
"That floods pretty early down there," he said.
The college's students are on spring break, but Perry said college officials may start moving things from dorms on Fourth Street, including the Arts and Humanities House, to higher ground Friday.
"We're doing it in stages because each day, you'll have better information," he said. "Since the students aren't here, we're going to take precautions...in case it's worse than anticipated."
Ashley Hill contributed to this story.