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How Greater Cincinnati is dealing with the Ohio River's rising floodwaters

What Greater Cincinnati's doing as river rises
What Greater Cincinnati's doing as river rises
What Greater Cincinnati's doing as river rises
Posted at 12:12 PM, Feb 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-20 07:19:18-05

CINCINNATI -- Rising floodwaters caused trouble for more than just drivers Monday.

People living near the Ohio River moved their belongings to higher ground or hoped for the best. A riverboat moved to a new mooring. And a piece of construction equipment nearly left the Northern Kentucky shoreline, in danger of being lost to the muddy bottom.

Rod Huber continued watching as the water crept closer and closer to his home on Panama Street, in Cincinnati's California neighborhood. He woke up Monday morning to find the road submerged. 

PHOTOS: Rising floodwaters across the Tri-State

He and his neighbors spent Sunday and Monday trying their best to prepare. It's mostly a waiting game, he said, but he's already taken appliances out of his home and moved furniture up to the highest bedroom. He also moved his Winnebago camper to higher ground.

"They're talking about it's going to be a week, and that's all you can do is, like I said -- you can't fight Mother Nature. You just let her take her course," Huber said.

Students who attend Cincinnati Public Schools' Riverview East Academy, on Kellogg Avenue, will attend classes at Jacobs Center on Tuesday.

Belterra Park Gaming, farther out Kellogg, closed Monday and will remain closed until the road is safe for driving.

In New Richmond, the water covered a few low-lying spots, but Front Street remained dry and passable Monday. Tom Wuerdeman has seen three floods during his years in the village and doesn't get too worried: Everything in his basement is in containers, and sump pumps will help keep it dry.

But he knows you can't be too relaxed when water is on the rise.

"We've just got to make sure to move the vehicles out of here. Sometimes it comes up really quickly, and then uh, oh, your car is underwater if you don’t get your car," he said.

The Ohio River is expected to crest just above 56 feet in Cincinnati by early Wednesday morning, causing moderate flooding. That's well below the most recent serious flood, when the the river crested above 64 feet in 1997.

In the East End, Eric Murray, manager of Murray's Tavern, said they learned their lesson in 2015 when the river came up. He was hoping to stay open but preparing to close at the same time.

"If you can get in here, you can pull you car in, then you can come and get a drink," Murray said. "We'll be closed if it gets to like 57 feet."

In 2015, Murray's had to close for a month for flood cleanup, he said. So this time they're stacking everything on the bar and off the floor.

"It's got to be all fixed up for the health codes." he said.

The city of Covington installed the Madison Avenue floodwall gate Monday morning just to the west of the Roebling Suspension Bridge. It was designed after the Great Flood of 1937 and takes a crew of 15 workers about 10 hours to install. Rick Davis, Covington's public works director, said it can be cumbersome using "1940s technology," but it works.

"It will keep the water out and keep our businesses safe and keep our residents safe," he said.

Nearby, along a historic stretch of Riverside Drive, someone left a backhoe parked while the river rose. It was mired in muck, so a tow truck had to haul it out.

Riverside Drive will be closed until water recedes.

Across the Licking River, in Newport, the Belle of Cincinnati moved across the Ohio to Cincinnati's Public Landing. The riverboat will be at its temporary mooring until the Ohio crests and begins falling, expected later this week.

Crews install floodwalls under Great American Ball Park, at Broadway and East Mehring Way. (Photo by Tom McKee | WCPO)

Upstream, rising water nearly cut off Manhattan Harbor in Dayton, Kentucky. A makeshift bridge was the only way on and off the docks as of midday Monday. According to the owner, even that won't be usable by Tuesday afternoon.

Near the Public Landing in Cincinnati, floodgates went up at Great American Ball Park, near Broadway and East Mehring Way. It was only a precaution because it's the gate nearest the river, said Tim O'Connell, Reds vice president of ballpark operations. The ballpark also has pumps that pull water from under the playing field, but O'Connell said there's been no intrusion yet.

"Those pumps are tested routinely and we’ll use them if we need them," he said. 

At Riverview Landing Marina, owner Shawn Somers was keeping a cautiously optimistic eye on the water. 

"My game plan is to say a prayer that we don't get all the rain they're calling for, and that the river drops out like they're currently predicting it will," he said. 

Several major roads, mostly on the east side of Hamilton County, are likely to stay closed all week. Cincinnati police warned drivers should expect heavier-than-normal traffic and delays.

The Anderson Ferry was shut down due to the water levels and current. Derick Biggs was fishing there Monday. He estimated 40 people had been by to take pictures of the high water.