Early Warnings in Athens Reduce Effects from Flooding

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Last week’s heavy rainfall submerged parts of East State and West State Streets on Thursday, affecting both local businesses and residents. However, the damage-control process began even before the water rose.

“The flood warning was sent ahead of 24 hours,” said Dan Pfeiffer, director of Athens County Emergency Management Agency.

By Thursday morning, part of East State Street, from Kroger to Walmart, was closed to motorists. According to Pfeiffer, several people who tried to drive around the barricades were ticketed by Athens Police.

“It only takes six-inches of water to float a car, so don’t drive into flood waters,” he said.

Ron Lucas Jr., public information officer for the City of Athens, said the city followed weather models to predict the flooding.

E. State cleared by Friday afternoon

“There are several factors that contribute to flooding,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s a guessing game.”

Following the warning from the National Weather Service, the EMA sent out flood-alert notifications to mitigate the effects of the rising waters.

After notifying the public, flood-prone areas were checked and barricaded.

“We also posted a person near barricades to explain [the closures] to motorists,” Lucas said.

In addition to the water itself, Lucas said floods also brought debris which needed to be removed as the water receded. The city also hosed down the roads.

Flooding on E. State affected local businesses

Some E. State businesses had to close as part of the street became inaccessible due to high water.

“This was the first time we closed the store for flooding,” said Shelley Lieberman, owner of Friendly Paws Pet Supplies and Grooming.

Neither she, nor her employees could get to the store.

“Any local business is going to have a hard time being closed for a whole day,” she said.


However, another local business owner, On Lam of Lam’s Garden Restaurant, saw the flooding as an inconvenience.

“It was closed for one day; it’s not a big deal,” he said.

With both ends of the street closed, keeping the restaurant open on Thursday was not an option.

The restaurant last closed in 2003 due to flooding. Although the Hocking River crested Thursday at 22.5 feet, the same as in 2003, last week’s flooding did not submerge the parking lot.

“I think… it is because they dredge the river,” he said.

Social media keeps people in the know

Both Lieberman and Lam found information about the flood and road conditions on social media.

Lam said he asked his employees to not come to work after learning about the flooding on Facebook.

The city also used social media to inform the public. Road closures and drone footage of the flooding were posted on the EMA’s Facebook page.

Flood warnings and notifications are also posted on city and county websites and social media as soon as a weather advisory is published.

“We post out warnings and hope they are wrong,” Lucas said.