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Rain expected to push Ohio River to highest level since '97

| Friday, Feb. 23, 2018, 12:15 p.m.
The playground at Bellevue Beach Park in Bellevue, Ky., is surrounded by floodwaters from the Ohio River, Tuesday Feb. 20, 2018. Roads and businesses in some low-lying areas have had to close along the Ohio River after days of rain swelled waterways past their banks.
Cara Owsley/AP
The playground at Bellevue Beach Park in Bellevue, Ky., is surrounded by floodwaters from the Ohio River, Tuesday Feb. 20, 2018. Roads and businesses in some low-lying areas have had to close along the Ohio River after days of rain swelled waterways past their banks.

CINCINNATI — Flooding swamped more roadways and basements Friday along the Ohio River and forecasters expected the river to reach levels not seen since the region's deadly 1997 floods.

The National Weather Service said the river topped 56 feet early Friday in the Cincinnati area, 4 feet above flood stage. Forecasters expect it to reach 59.4 feet by Tuesday morning. That would be the highest since 64.7 feet during 1997 floods that claimed more than two dozen lives, most of them in Kentucky.

Friday morning commutes were slowed by accidents, stranded vehicles and closed roadways that forced detours, especially east of downtown Cincinnati. Forecasters warned people living along rivers, streams and creeks in southern Ohio, southeast Indiana and northern Kentucky to be especially cautious and prepared for rapid rises.

NWS forecaster Kristen Cassady, in Wilmington, Ohio, said multiple factors are contributing, starting with steady rains, heavy at times, projected through Saturday night.

“We continue to be concerned,” she said. “This pattern has been one that has created repeated rounds of rain.”

Cold winter ground and lack of vegetation this time of year don't allow soaking up much rainfall, she said.

Forecasters expect significant flooding over the next few days, leaving much of Ohio Route 52 covered with water from Cincinnati to New Richmond, Ohio, more than 20 miles (32.19 kilometers) to the southeast; widespread basement flooding in low-lying areas, and high water in the Coney Island amusement park and at Riverbend concert venues.

New Richmond's village council declared a state of emergency, telling the 2,600 residents to comply with instructions from emergency personnel. The mayor also urged residents to secure property, make living arrangements for themselves and pets, and to pay close attention to forecasts.

Forecasters were also monitoring conditions at the Scioto River, Great Miami and other river areas.

The Ohio National Guard said Friday it has activated some 40 soldiers from the 1191st Engineering Company to raise floodgates along the Ohio River in Portsmouth, Ohio, and work with Scioto County emergency management and the city flood division. Several of the soldiers live and work in Portsmouth, more than 100 miles southeast of Cincinnati.

Farther east along the river, the city of East Liverpool, Ohio, advised people living in flood-prone areas to find another place to stay by Sunday night, WYTV reported. The small city is some 40 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

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