WHEELING, W.Va. — Flood watches are in effect on the entire length of the Ohio River from Hancock County to Wayne County for the weekend. It’s a second straight weekend with heavy rain in the forecast which could push the river above flood stage before it crests.
“Right now we’re looking at six plus feet above flood stage,” said Tom Hart, Director of Emergency Management for Marshall County. “Flood stage at Moundsville is 37 feet and right now it’s projected at 43.1.”
It was only a week ago residents of Wheeling Island were shoving mud out the front door, Dave Weaver Planning Officer for the Wheeling-Ohio County Emergency Management Agency said those who live on the Island know what to do.
“They’ll stay in their homes and as the water comes down they’ll spray the mud out,” said Weaver. “Right now we’re getting people to pull up anything in the basement like washers, dryers, and furnace motors.”
Gov. Jim Justice issued a statement Friday and urged West Virginians to be on the alert.
“I know West Virginia can weather this coming storm, if we all remember to use our God-given common sense,” Justice said. “I encourage everyone to pay attention to their local emergency officials. And please, do not endanger yourselves, your loved ones or our first responders by trying to drive through flood waters!”
The West Virginia National Guard is pre-staging in the Ohio River area.
The projected crest in Wheeling as of Friday afternoon was 40 feet which had dropped from 41.5, but remained above flood stage and will put much of Wheeling Island and the lower Wheeling area under water.
Most county emergency managers in the northern panhandle fear the potential for two separate disasters, the river flood would be preceded by high water on small streams and creeks in rural areas.
“We’re looking at the possibility of 2 to 3 inches of rain this weekend,” said Hart. “That could lead to flooding and flash flooding all across the country.”
Most of the counties have done their best to prepare. Swift water rescue teams are staged in place. Shelter resources are on standby and there is close coordination with volunteer fire departments. All of West Virginia remains under a state of emergency from the flooding from last week. Officials say they are prepared as best they can be and now are sitting back to watch the sky–and keep one eye on the river.