Snowfall raises flooding concerns

MARIETTA – In the wake of the weekend’s heavy snowfall, followed by ice, sleet and rain Tuesday night and some warming Wednesday, there’s been concern about the possibility of local flooding, mainly along smaller streams.

“There could be debris, fallen tree limbs, or ice jams in smaller waterways that could cause water to back up and flood, but those flooding concerns should diminish (by Thursday),” said meteorologist Joe Merchant with the National Weather Service in Charleston.

He said most of the rain that fell Tuesday and Wednesday has moved out and no appreciable precipitation is forecast over the next several days.

Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks said there had been no flooding reported in the area Wednesday.

“But we’re continuing to watch for possible ice jams on streams,” he said. “And we’ll keep monitoring low areas of the county for flooding. But I think the slow melting of snow and ice is helping.”

Some area residents were longing for the return of warmer and drier weather Wednesday.

“I’m pretty tired of it. I like snow, but not this freezing stuff,” said Patty Thompson of Marietta. “I’m looking for spring.”

Sunil Kavuri of Parkersburg was out of the country and in a much warmer climate during December, but returned just in time for a colder-than-normal January.

“But spring starts in about six weeks, and I’m looking forward to it, so I guess I can wait,” he said.

The recent weather reminded Marietta College worker Paul Miller of the winters he experienced in his younger days.

“We haven’t had many winters like that recently, so people aren’t used to it,” he said. “But I am ready for spring.”

At least one local resident, Bonnie Bolen of Marietta, was enjoying the winter weather.

“I love the winter,” she said. “I really like to see all four seasons, but I do have a warm place to live and a good car. I’m also an artist and have been taking photos of snow scenes I hope to be able to paint.”

Although there has been talk that another big storm may be coming toward the beginning of next week, Merchant said no major weather events are expected to have much of an effect on this area.

“The next storm system we’re tracking will be well off to the south and east. The Marietta area may see some light snow on the weekend, but it should have a very low impact,” he said.

The availability of salt to treat area roadways could become an issue if January’s deep freeze weather returns during February. There have been reports of low salt supplies in cities across the nation as the winter weather has required more towns than usual to put down salt to melt ice on roadways.

The city of Belpre is running low on salt and ordering cinders this week in case the weather turns again.

“That’s OK for a couple of light snows, but if it gets bad we’ll be in trouble,” said Mayor Mike Lorentz.

He said road salt is on order, but the problem has been getting the shipments in.

Lorentz said in addition the city has experienced breakdowns of snow removal equipment.

Belpre may get relief from the Ohio Department of Transportation, which announced it would be ordering an extra supply of salt to share with communities that are running low and have no other way to obtain the material.

ODOT is ordering an extra 210,000 tons that will be distributed to seven locations which are yet to be determined, according to David Rose, public information officer for ODOT District 10. He said the salt order is expected to be in by Feb. 14.

“Basically this will be for any local entity in need of salt that reaches out to us,” he said. “We’ve used a lot of the material this winter and know some areas are running low, so we’re trying to be proactive and ensure local communities can keep their salt bins stocked.”

He said ODOT has used more than 800,000 tons of salt this winter, and 44,000 tons of that have been spread in the counties covered by District 10.

Rose said the seven locations for salt distribution will be determined after the salt order comes in next week, and will likely be based on where the greatest need is.

Washington County has a good supply of salt, according to county highways superintendent Calvin Becker.

“We’re holding our own right now with about 200 tons, and we have an order in for more,” he said. “The shipments have been slow coming in lately, so we’ve been cutting the amount of salt in our salt and sand mix back a little to help conserve what we have.”

The city of Marietta is also in pretty good shape, said streets superintendent Todd Stockel.

“We have about 150 tons in stock now, and 300 more tons available,” he said.