Flood Waters Begin to Recede, Officials Wait To Assess Damage

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ATHENS — Athens residents woke up Thursday morning to high water all over the county, including some that left East State Street businesses as islands.

East State Street in Athens, as of Thursday morning.
(Photo courtesy of Amber Milner)

Heavy rains have been soaking the area for most of the week, with a bit of snow sprinkled in on Wednesday. All the precipitation led the already swollen Hocking River to an anticipated crest of about 22.4 feet on Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. The high waters closed parts of East State Street, and dozens of roads across the county had already been closed Wednesday due to high water.

The county is now waiting for the water to recede so they can assess the damage to the affected roads and property.

“There’s not much to do until the water recedes,” said Dan Pfeiffer, director of the Athens County Emergency Management Agency. “We’ve already reported to the state that there’s multiple areas of flooding.”

The state has not declared a state of emergency for Athens County or any surrounding counties, as it did in February, the last time heavy flooding was forecasted for the area.

On Feb. 25, the county braced for a projected river crest of 25 feet, which ended up dissipating and cresting well below that level. During that storm, the city engaged emergency protocols, including setting up a shelter at Athens Middle School.

South Canaan Road is shown with high flooding on Thursday.
(Photo courtesy of Anne L’Heureux)

When the governor declared a state of emergency, it allowed funding to be distributed for materials to help with the flooding. The Nelsonville Fire Department received sandbags as part of the state of emergency.

But since the water has already crested, Pfeiffer said concerns about continued damage are fading.

“This is flooding we’ve had before, and it’s going down now,” Pfeiffer said. “We just have to let her run her course.”

The Athens County Sheriff’s Office has been patrolling flooded roads, making sure they are marked and helping drivers avoid the roads, according to Sheriff Rodney Smith.

Ohio University spokesperson Carly Leatherwood said there were no plans to cancel classes or close the Athens campus.

As always, the Ohio Emergency Management Agency recommends having an emergency preparedness kit ready for situations like flooding.