Residents of Portsmouth and New Boston are scrambling to combat the rising water brought on by this week’s heavy rainfall, which culminated Thursday with flooding that overtook U.S. 52 and several other roadways in New Boston.
But the worst may not be over, as officials in both New Boston and Portsmouth took action Thursday to minimize and control flooding, and may find themselves continuing to battle high water as heavy rains are expected to continue into the weekend.
Several roads in New Boston remain closed after village officials began closing roads in New Boston Thursday morning. Rhodes Avenue and Gallia Street (U.S. 52) were two of the main roads closed, resulting in heavy traffic on alternate routes not only around the village, but across soggy Scioto County. Bumper-to-bumper traffic in downtown Portsmouth clogged Chillicothe Street (U.S. 23) Thursday as drivers inched through the business district and across Grant Bridge into Kentucky for an alternate route east on U.S. 23.
New Boston Mayor Junior Williams advised the public to avoid New Boston travel completely until the waters recede.
“We’re having everybody avoid the village of New Boston entirely, from 139 to 52 East and 52 West. We’re advising everyone to find an alternate route and stay out of the village of New Boston,” Williams warned.
“We’ve had flooding issues, and we’re working on them. The water is still slowly rising. We know there’s not much more rain today, but we’ve got rain coming in tonight (Thursday).
“We’ve got some additional pumps coming,” Williams said. “We’ve had some of our pumps with mechanical failure, so it’s not allowing us to pump as much as we’re used to pumping. We’ve got additional pumps coming in from Charleston, West Virginia, that will be here today (Thursday).
“Until, we see the water is receding rather than rising, we will announce the village will be back open,” the mayor said. “But at this point in time, we are advising everyone to avoid the village of New Boston. Many of the businesses have closed and such, so look for an alternate route.”
Williams also said there pumps are expected to arrive from Tennessee as well, and expressed his appreciation to everyone lending a helping hand during this difficult time.
Portsmouth began erected additional floodgates Thursday as a precautionary measure in case water levels exceed projections.
“We put up four [more] floodgates earlier this week based on the projected river levels,” said Richard Duncan, director of Wastewater and Floodwater Defense for Portsmouth. “The river crested at 53.5 feet [Wednesday], it went back down and receded to about 50 feet, and now it is expected to possibly come back to 58 feet.”
According to Duncan, the four additional floodgates will bring the total count to eight flood gates, and those gates erected earlier this week have been topped off to protect the city from floodwaters up to 70 feet.
As workers scurried to construct further floodgates around the city, many residents took the opportunity Thursday afternoon to visit the permanent flood wall and check out the rising Ohio River for themselves. On the hill leading to the top of the wall, numerous persons could be seen chatting about past floods and snapping pictures of the swollen river.
“I really thought it would be a lot higher,” said one woman, who declined to give her name, but seemed to sum up the thoughts of many of those atop the hill. “It really almost seems like much ado about very little.”
“I had to bring my kids down here to see this,” said Michael Stanford, who was visiting the flood wall murals with two daughters and a son in tow. “We may never have the chance to see something like this again. Hopefully, we will never have to see anything worse.”
“I really kind of thank God that this is not any worse than it is,” said Randy Forrester. Forrester said he was around the last time the city suffered major flooding in 1997, and described that scene as “very un-pretty.”
Reach Ivy Potter at 740-353-3101 ext. 1932