Reaching 52.7 feet, the Ohio River crested at Portsmouth around 11 a.m. Monday, according to online information provided by the National Weather Service.
Weather Service hydrographs and predictions show the river falling steadily since that time, dipping below the 50-foot flood stage at around 11 a.m. Thursday. Predictions posted Thursday showed the river reaching a recent low of about 44 feet late Friday night and into early Saturday morning.
With all that and other factors in mind, Scott Leeth, Portsmouth’s assistant to the city manager, said Thursday local flood walls put up in the past weeks started coming down earlier this week. Leeth admitted the walls may be tumbling slower than some might like. But he also noted city crews – during the past two weeks – have been working almost nonstop to, first, put up the walls, then top off other walls and now have begun the long process of taking down those walls that protect the city.
“They’re all just exhausted,” he said, adding crews would be back to work as soon as humanly possible. According to Leeth, the wall blocking Second Street just beyond the Portsmouth Brewing Company is perhaps the wall people want to see disappear most quickly. However, Leeth noted that wall is a large one, initially put up with the help of the Army National Guard. Even with their help, erection of the wall took the better part of two days. Leeth added walls around Front and Court streets are much smaller, and he said they had been removed by Thursday afternoon.
Leeth said no flood water reached any residences or businesses in Portsmouth. However, he did say some local businesses, perhaps most notably the Bridge Carryout at 201 Second St., were affected by the erection of the walls. Leeth added the owner of the carryout store had been contacting the city almost daily since the flood wall near his business was erected. Attempts to reach store management directly for comment were unsuccessful Thursday.
While Portsmouth was spared any flooding, neighboring New Boston was not so lucky. On Feb. 22, waters overtook U.S. 52 and other streets in that city, including Rhodes Avenue. When the flooding was at its worst, New Boston Mayor Junior Williams advised the public to avoid his city completely. On Thursday, Williams said New Boston was pretty much back to normal.
“Were still monitoring the river,” he added, saying officials will continue to do so until the Ohio River drops below 40 feet. In the meantime, Williams said city crews continue their cleanup efforts around town. He said probably the worst hit area were fields near the city’s high school, adding officials are asking residents to stay out of the area until it can dry out. On another front, Williams said city crews will clean out sewer drains and sewer tunnels over the next few weeks to ensure debris is not blocking those sewers.
Although he did not have many details, Williams said the local Red Cross and the county Emergency Management Agency could be offering aid to residents or businesses affected by the flooding. The city’s website invites persons who may need help to contact the county at 740-456-4103, ext. 2.
Williams noted that, most importantly, he had heard no reports of any injuries due to the local flooding.
In Portsmouth, Leeth said the city is still figuring how much money had been spent on flood defense, adding the city could possibly receive some reimbursement if total costs reach a minimum of $299,000. In New Boston, Williams also said the city will seek any reimbursements possible. Municipal officials from around the county will meet with Scioto County emergency management leaders this afternoon to report on any damage or costs incurred during the recent emergency. Emergency Management Director Kim Carver said there are certain financial thresholds the county must reach to be eligible for state or even possibly federal financial assistance. Carver added details regarding assistance should become clearer during the afternoon meeting.
Just how much water fell locally in the last few weeks is difficult to say with any precision, according to Jim Lott, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Wilmington, which serves southern Ohio. Lott said the weather service does not maintain any rain gauges in or around Portsmouth. The closest official gauges are in Columbus and Cincinnati.
In Columbus, 5.25 inches of rain fell during February. That was not a record, ranking only as the seventh highest rainfall total on record for the month since 1878. Considerably more water fell in Cincinnati, where 7.8 inches of rain reached the ground, making February the third soggiest February on record for that city since 1884. Lott noted that since records go back more than a hundred years, having February 2018 land in third place “was pretty impressive.”
Reach Tom Corrigan at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931