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Archive for Sunday, September 19, 2004

Ohio River swells in Ivan’s aftermath

September 19, 2004

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— Doug Patterson spent part of Saturday shoveling a wall of sand along the outside of the bank where his wife works, one of a small army of people working to protect businesses from the rising Ohio River, swollen by the remnants of Hurricane Ivan.

Across the street, water covered the city's riverfront park and amphitheater so deeply that only the very tips of light poles and trees marked its location.

"The whole place is pretty messed up, to be honest with you," said Patterson, 43.

As the broad area of rain that remained from Ivan streamed off through New England on the way to the North Atlantic, the National Weather Service predicted the Ohio River would crest today at 46 feet, about 10 feet above flood stage and close to its record.

By early afternoon Saturday, it was already at 41.7 feet, the National Weather Service said. The river had submerged the northern tip and southern half of the city's Wheeling Island, which holds residential neighborhoods and Wheeling Island Racetrack and Gaming.

"We've been plucking people out of here left and right," firefighter David Schaffer said. "People are waiting until the last minute, and then they see the water come up and they get panicked."

Downriver, residents were urged to evacuate parts of Moundsville, and big flood gates were closed at Parkersburg, where the river was expected to crest today at five feet above flood stage.

All around West Virginia, flooding and mudslides had blocked 207 roads and damaged hundreds of houses, authorities said.

Ivan and its remnants had been blamed for 45 deaths in the United States, 16 of them in Florida.

Bree Bennington, of Lansing, Ohio, takes a photo of the damage to
U.S. Route 40 in Lansing. The road washed out Friday night because
of floodwaters from the remnants of Hurricane Ivan.

Bree Bennington, of Lansing, Ohio, takes a photo of the damage to U.S. Route 40 in Lansing. The road washed out Friday night because of floodwaters from the remnants of Hurricane Ivan.

The storm also was blamed for 70 deaths in the Caribbean.

On Saturday, President Bush declared disaster areas in Georgia and North Carolina, where the storm caused heavy flooding in some areas and a total of at least 12 deaths. Bush previously declared disasters in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida, freeing up federal money for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans and other programs.

Utility companies said more than 1.1 million homes and businesses still had no electricity Saturday from Florida north to Pennsylvania.

Upriver in western Pennsylvania, downtown Pittsburgh's Point State Park was underwater Saturday where the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers join to form the Ohio. Dozens of boats that had broken free of their moorings were floating down the fast-rushing rivers.

Elsewhere, streams had started to recede in hard-hit western North Carolina as others rose in New York.

Parts of northern New Jersey and eastern New York measured 5 inches of rain Saturday. A mobile home park had to be evacuated because of flooding in Ravena, N.Y., 13 miles south of Albany.

Williamsport, Pa., collected 6.5 inches of rain in 24 hours and Pittsburgh got a record 5.95 inches Friday.

Across the Ohio River from West Virginia, Ivan also had caused flooding in eastern Ohio. About 1,500 residents of Belmont County were out of their homes on Saturday, and some 2,700 were told to boil their tap water because of line breaks, said Rob Glenn, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.

In the village of Amesville, Ohio, 115 youngsters spent Friday night in their elementary school because of flooded roads. The children slept on carpeted classroom floors, wrapped in blankets that the Red Cross delivered by boat, said librarian Patti McKibben.

After devastating parts of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, Ivan poured as much as 12 inches of rain Friday on North Carolina's mountainous western tip, which was still sodden from Frances' floods a week earlier.

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