Ohio River hits highest point since 1997

AP View looking north to Cincinnati as flood waters rise toward the intersection of Riverside Drive and Garrard Street Sunday in Covington, Ky.

Heavy rains overnight have sent the swollen Ohio River at Cincinnati to its highest point in 20 years with the river expected to remain above flood stage through the end of the week, a National Weather Service meteorologist said Sunday.

Between 1.5 and 2.5 inches of rain fell across the region from Saturday night into early Sunday morning accompanied by damaging high winds and an unconfirmed report of a tornado in Brown County.

Meteorologist Kristen Cassady said the Ohio River reached 60 feet Sunday morning at its Cincinnati recording station, 8 feet above flood stage, and could reach 60.6 feet sometime Sunday. It would be the highest recordings since 1997, when the river reached 64.7 feet.

In Trumbull County, the Mahoning River reached flood stage in Leavittsburg at 10 feet sometime on Sunday, while the river in downtown Youngstown remained about four feet below flood stage.

The Cincinnati Enquirer has reported Cincinnati police had to rescue numerous drivers whose vehicles became trapped in flood waters.

Local streams and rivers overflowing their banks have caused road closings throughout Ohio, including Trumbull County.

Republican Gov. John Kasich issued an emergency declaration Saturday in 17 southern and eastern counties. Kasich in a briefing Sunday at the state’s emergency operations center said preparations by local and state officials ahead of heavy rains and expected flooding helped Ohio “dodge a bullet” with no loss of life reported to this point.

Kasich pointed to his order five days ago to activate 40 soldiers from an Ohio National Guard engineering company to raise floodgates along the Ohio River in Portsmouth.

The Ohio River is expected to begin slowly receding Sunday, but will likely to remain above flood stage until the end of the week, fed by its numerous tributaries, Cassady said.

“The good news is the rain is done and we’ll have a couple of dry days for that water to recede,” she said.

Another weather system is expected to bring rain during the middle of the week.

Roughly 20 miles east of Cincinnati along the Ohio, more than 40 homes and businesses have been affected by flooding in low-lying portions of the village. Residents began evacuating Friday into Saturday.

“A few people had to move quickly when the river level came up sooner and faster than originally forecast,” Village Administrator Greg Roberts said. “Friends and family pulled together.”

Rain forecast for later in the week will keep officials and emergency personnel in the village of around 2,600 people on high alert, he said.

“We’re going to remain vigilant until the river gets back to where it belongs,” Roberts said.

Ohio University in southeastern Ohio canceled classes today because of concerns about potential flooding in the Hocking River.