On Monday, the Ohio River near Portsmouth crested at 53.3 feet, according to both the National Weather Service and Mark Puckett, supervisor of Flood Defense for Portsmouth.
According to Puckett, because the weather service predicts that the river will continue to fall, there is a possibility flood walls erected in the past week or so may begin to come down today. That is despite the fact the weather service also intends to maintain a flood warning for southern Ohio through at least Thursday, according to weather service meteorologist James Gibson.
According to information provided by the weather service online, the Ohio River locally reached a maximum height of 52.7 feet. The weather service shows the river receding to 50 feet, which is the flood stage level, at about 3 p.m. Thursday. Gibson said because the river will be above flood stage until Thursday, the weather service plans to maintain a flood warning in the area for the time being.
Again, according to weather service online information, when the Ohio River reaches 53 feet locally, water can enter lower levels of homes in south Portsmouth. Backwater flooding from the Ohio River can worsen on area creeks, especially along the Ohio side of the river through Scioto and Adams counties. Flooding may or may not continue through stretches of State Route 52. On its website, the weather service specifically notes “much of Portsmouth itself is protected by flood walls.”
“The good news is it’s trending down,” Gibson said regarding the Ohio River.
On Feb. 18, for the first time since 1997, the city ordered the erection of flood gates in Portsmouth. On the following day, local officials in connection with county leaders, brought in the Ohio National Guard’s 119st Engineer Company to help put up gates on Second Street and other spots around town. The city has since put up further gates and topped off gates in such spots as Madison Street.
As the walls were going up, and prior to his resignation Monday, former City Manager Derek Allen said the city has specific guidelines in place which dictate when flood walls should be erected. He noted that during the past few years, the city has had practice exercises putting up walls throughout Portsmouth. All in all, the city has 15 gates it can erect in case of emergency. According to Richard Duncan, director of Wastewater and Floodwater Defense for Portsmouth, the city erected eight gates during the recent emergency.
Puckett said Monday that no water had reached homes or businesses. However, he did say several businesses affected by construction of the flood walls would undoubtedly be glad to see them gone.
While Puckett said he has heard rumors that the city overreacted in putting up the flood barricades, he said he was happy the city decided to err on the side of caution. He claimed that had the city not acted, residents would possibly be complaining Portsmouth officials had ignored the situation.
“It’s better to be safe than sorry,” Puckett said.
While no flooding was reported in Portsmouth, plenty of water reached the neighboring town of New Boston. That city closed several roads because of flooding, including U.S. 52. On Thursday, New Boston Mayor Junior Williams advised the public to avoid his city completely until the waters receded. U.S. 52 was reopened the next day, and business resumed as usual by the weekend.