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WEATHER Flooding still a risk downriver in southern Ohio



Published: Sat, January 8, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Rain throughout the week could make problems worse.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The swollen Ohio River slowly began to recede Saturday in water-logged Marietta, sending water downstream to other southern Ohio communities that could have flooding problems until midweek, forecasters said.

The river is around flood stage from Portsmouth to Cincinnati, roughly 90 miles away, and could rise another 5 feet by Monday. Rain is possible Tuesday through Thursday, said Mike Ryan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington.

"It could exacerbate the problems," said Ryan, adding evacuations could be necessary in small towns near where the Little Miami River empties into the Ohio.

Several days of rain have sent rivers out of their banks in central and southern Ohio, flooding ground already saturated by melted snow from the last storm before Christmas.

At the same time, an ice storm knocked out power in parts of western and northern Ohio. Power companies said about 100,000 customers remained without electricity on Saturday, down from 250,000 at the height of the storm.

No serious injuries were reported in the flooding. Authorities believe carbon monoxide poisoning may have killed four people using generators for electricity.

Preparing for the worst

Parts of northern Ohio got an additional 2 to 5 inches of snow Saturday, while Marietta got another seven-tenths of an inch of rain that didn't stop the Ohio River from its slow drop, the National Weather Service said.

"The other effect of the overnight rain was to make a lot of people nervous," said Mike Cullums, spokesman for the Washington County Emergency Management Agency.

The streets of downtown Marietta remained under 2 to 4 feet of water Saturday.

Cullums said that forced the EMA to delay until Monday its plans to distribute drinking water and cleaning supplies, including bleach, mops, brooms and towels, to residents forced to close their downtown businesses and voluntarily leave their homes.

Sixty-nine people spent Friday night at three American Red Cross shelters in Washington County, Cullums said.

To prepare for the flooding, people stacked sandbags and moved possessions off floors. The Ohio River didn't rise as fast as the prior flood in September, when hundreds of homes and businesses were damaged in a matter of hours.

"I'd like to get back in and see what I'll have to do this time," resident Mary Walters told The Marietta Times. "It's a lot of anxiety to just sit and wait but at least this time we could prepare and the water didn't get as high as in September."

"This would be a major flood, and September was a catastrophic flood," Cullums said.

Back to normal

The river dropped below 41 feet near Marietta on Saturday morning and should be under its flood stage of 34 feet by late Sunday, said Kari Fleegel, a weather service meteorologist in Charleston, W.Va.




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