Storms, flooding continues here

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Severe spring storms continue to batter Switzerland County and other parts of the Midwest this week, and with rains falling at times in 2- to 3-inch per hour increments, flood waters are now everywhere.

Switzerland County Highway Superintendent Chris Clerkin said yesterday (Wednesday) morning that the county currently has 25 roads closed due to high water or mud slides. Most of the roads are concentrated in Posey and York Townships; with a few others in Jefferson and Craig Townships.

“They’re impassable due to high water,” Chris Clerkin said. “Our advice is, if you don’t live on them, stay away from them. People need to remember not to drive through standing water, because 4- 6-inches of water has the potential to take a vehicle.”

As of yesterday (Wednesday) morning, the following county roads are closed to traffic:

Cooper Road, Jackson Road, Emmich Road, Willow Haven Road, Plum Creek Road, Lower Dugan Road, Cogley Cole Road, Hunt’s Creek Road, Hickory Ridge Road, Bennett Road, Bud Ballard Road, Goose Creek Road, Grant’s Creek Road, Evans Hill Road, Concord Road, Riverside Road, Eagle Cove Road, Noble Road, Wallick Road.

Additionally, Antioch Road, Quercus Grove Road, Goose Creek Road, and Kenneth Booker Road are all closed due to mud slides covering the roadways.

“Antioch Road is a real problem, because it’s had a bad slide,” Chris Clerkin said. “The road is down to one lane in the slide area, and people using Antioch really need to use caution when they travel through there.”

Chris Clerkin said that the highway department feels as though it has its hands tied when it comes to county roadways. Unlike winter weather, there’s very little that highway workers can do until the rain stops, and then the process of cleaning debris off of the roads begins.

He also stated that State Road 56 remains closed to traffic just west of Patton Hollow Road; and more closures could be coming.

“There are several roads that we are watching pretty closely,” Chris Clerkin said. “Along with those, if we get much more rain, I feel like there’s a real chance that State Road 156 could be closed at Plum Creek, because it’s really close to being over the road right now.”

Chris Clerkin said that his office is working with Switzerland County Emergency Management Agency Director George Adams to try and assist residents in need when possible.

“If people need help, they need to call 911 or EMA or us and we will make arrangements to help them however they need help,” Chris Clerkin said.

“If people have a true emergency, they need to call 911,” George Adams said. “If they are in need of assistance, then they can call our office at 427-3346 and we will get them help.”

George Adams said that his office has been working up to 16-hours a day keeping up with changing conditions, and that emergency shelters are ready to be set up through the Red Cross if residents need shelter or need to be evacuated from their homes.

Here in Switzerland County, that shelter will be at the Vevay Assembly Church on East Main Street in Vevay.

“We have the county’s disaster trailer already parked in front of our office, ready for the Red Cross,” George Adams said. “We hope that we don’t have to use it, but we’re making arrangements and preparations in the event that it’s needed.”

Currently EMA officials have been busy doing damage assessment from recent storms; and George Adams said that anyone who has suffered property damage during recent or from the storms that came through yesterday (Wednesday) morning should call the EMA office at 427-3346.

The National Weather Service was in the county last week following the strong storms that blew through early on Wednesday morning, and the damage that was done near State Road 250 and Antioch Road has been classified as an EF1 tornado. George Adams, said that an EF1 is the lowest tornado ranking, but is still obviously strong enough to do damage to homes and other structures.

As for flood levels, George Adams and Chris Clerkin both report that they have been hearing that the Ohio River may get as high as 57-feet before it crests, but with yesterday’s (Wednesday’s) heavy rains, that figure could also rise.

County residents were alerted by the CodeRED system of a tornado warning at approximately 6:30 a.m. Wednesday morning as a strong line of storms moved in a northeast direction from Carrollton, Kentucky up through the Patriot area and on through Rising Sun; but county officials had not heard of any damage reports other than strong winds and more rain.

Jerry Brown, local weather guru, said that he has measured a total of 11.96-inches at his home on Drake’s Ridge so far in April – and during the past week, his rain gauge has recorded 6.53-inches of rain. It is possible that, by the time the month of April comes to a close on Saturday, this could be the highest amount of rainfall recorded in a single month in Switzerland County history – eclipsing even the 1937 Flood figures.

Out at the Markland Dam and Locks, lock and dam operator Jerry Guanella said that the upper lock level was at 17.9 on Wednesday morning, with a level of 51.8 on the lower, and they are “all out” on the dams, which means that the gates that help to control water flow are now completely out of the water, meaning that there is no control over levels coming through the dam.

It should be noted that the Markland Dam is a navigation dam and not a flood control dam, so it’s primary purpose is to control river levels for barge and other water traffic; but it’s presence does make a difference in controlling water levels below the dam.

Jerry Guanella said that at 7 a.m. Wednesday morning, officials had predicted a lower gauge level at 50.3-feet – and the rive had already exceeded that by more than a foot. Predictions for today (Thursday) is 54.5-feet; with tomorrow (Friday) being predicted at a 54.8-feet level.

“The crest is supposed to be a 55.5 sometime Thursday p.m.,” Jerry Guanella said. “We talk ‘a.m.’ and ‘p.m.’, so we’re expecting the river to crest sometime between noon and midnight.”

At Markland, the official flood stage is 51-feet, meaning that the area is already over the flood stage – and rising. The “Flood Stage” is measured at the lower side of the locks.

Jerry Guanella said that debris in the river has let up, and officials at Markland are trying to flush the debris through the small chamber as it comes up in order to try and keep the approaches clean for the towboats.

Jerry Guanella said that anyone wanting information about levels at the Markland Lock and Dam may call the automated system at (859) 567-4384. He said that the information on that system is updated two to three times each day, as warranted.

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If county residents are tired of rain, there may be a glimmer of hope on the horizon. The National Weather Service is calling for a 30-percent chance of thunderstorms today (Thursday) but then tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday both show sunny skies and little chance of rain.

But that ends quickly, with a 50-percent chance of thunderstorms returning on Sunday; followed by a 40-percent chance of showers on Monday. After a break on Tuesday; showers are expected to return for the rest of next week.

“All we can do is just keep our signs up and wait on it to go down,” Chris Clerkin said. “It’s a bad situation. We just feel so helpless.”