Ohio River crests at highest level since ’97, hazards remain

Flooding Ohio
James Fancher, Jr., of New Richmond, walks in a park Saturday, March, 14, 2015, on Front Street in New Richmond, Ohio, where a gauge measures the Ohio River level. Flood stage is 52 feet. (AP Photo/The Cincinnati Enquirer, Patrick Reddy)

CINCINNATI (AP) — The Ohio River crested Sunday at its highest level in two decades, leaving riverside residents relieved but cautious as forecasters warned that flooding problems will linger much of the week ahead.

The National Weather Service said the river crested at around 6 a.m. at 57.7 feet, or seven feet below the 1997 level that caused severe, widespread flooding in the Cincinnati area and in Kentucky. Forecaster Brian Coniglio said the river will remain above the 52-foot flood stage most of the week.

Melted snow and rainfalls caused flooding that swamped roads, businesses and homes in scattered low-lying areas in the Cincinnati region.

“It’s going to very gradually drop,” Coniglio. “It’s going to take a while.”

The weather service expects a few dry days ahead to help the situation.

“I’d say there’s a collective sigh of relief at this point,” said Greg Roberts, village administrator for New Richmond, on the river some 20 miles southeast of Cincinnati. “The morning fog is rising and the river fortunately is falling.”

He said at least five homes were flooded and many roads in the area had water covering them, making travel difficult.

“It’s still at a precarious level,” he said.

Roberts said people who voluntarily evacuated apparently stayed with family or friends. The American Red Cross had opened a shelter Saturday at the local high school but closed it Sunday.

He said the village of some 2,500 people has taken steps to make sure residents, especially those who weren’t around or are too young to remember the 1997 floods, are aware of flooding dangers. He said the current flooding “is manageable;” another couple feet higher would have affected many more people.

Authorities in Clermont County east of Cincinnati said more than two dozen roads remained closed Sunday. Hamilton County authorities closed a road in Whitewater Township west of Cincinnati on Saturday after rescuing three people trapped in a car in high water.

Flood warnings were posted across southern Ohio through Portsmouth and some southeast Ohio campgrounds were closed over the weekend.

The Weather Service reported minor flooding Sunday around several rivers in north-central and eastern Ohio, including flooding in the village of Killbuck from Killbuck Creek.

Forecasters also warned of potential flooding from ice jams in northern rivers.

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