Northern Kentucky Cities Install Floodgates as Ohio River Continues to Rise

The Ohio River is expected to crest at 56 feet on Thursday. It's at 55 feet now.

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click to enlarge Photograph of the Roebling Bridge facing Covington on the evening of March 2. - Photo: Danielle Schuster
Photo: Danielle Schuster
Photograph of the Roebling Bridge facing Covington on the evening of March 2.

Covington and other Kentucky cities are gearing up for the aftermath of a weekend full of rain and floods.

Because the Ohio River is covering portions of Riverside Drive and approaching Madison Avenue, officials in Covington are enacting the first steps in the city’s flood response plan by closing the sluice gates at Willow Run on Wednesday. There are now barriers blocking traffic from Riverside Drive, and the bottom row of the Madison Overlook floodgate has been installed, a news release from the city says.

The Ohio River is expected to crest at 56 feet on Thursday, says the National Weather Service’s Ohio River Forecast Center. The river came in at 55 feet on Wednesday.

The water doesn’t start coming through the gate at the foot of Madison Avenue until about 57 feet, Brad Schwenke, supervisor of the parks and facilities division in public works, says in the release.

“The river is unpredictable and the forecast has been all over the place, so we’re mostly just being cautious,” Schwenke said. “Thank goodness we’re not seeing the widespread flooding that’s causing such damage down south in Eastern Kentucky.”

Covington crew members began assembling the flood gate on Monday, Schwenke adds. 

The Madison Overlook floodgate is one of seven in Covington and the first to be installed when the Ohio and Licking rivers start rising. It was erected once 2020, once in 2019, twice in 2018 and once in 2015, after not being put up for over a decade.

Other cities in Northern Kentucky also are enacting safety measures this week.

The city of Newport posted to its Facebook page that crews began closing the Columbia Street floodgate at Riverboat Row early Wednesday morning. The gate will remain closed until the high water recedes, the post says.

To the northeast, the city of Dayton said on Facebook that crews were busy installing its flood gate Wednesday. Kentucky Route 8 at the floodwall is closed until the work is finished. Once completed, the road will reopen with one lane of traffic.

KY 8 at the floodwall on Fourth Ave is closed while Dayton Public Works installs the floodgates. It will open later with...

Posted by City of Dayton, Kentucky on Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency on Feb. 28 after rains ravaged the region and sent groundwater gushing into creeks and rivers. 

Every county had issued a flood warning or flood watch, according to a March 1 press release from the governor's office. 

“The impact of extremely heavy rainfall and flash flooding across the commonwealth led to numerous emergency rescues and evacuations in counties from west to east,” Michael Dossett, director of The Kentucky Division of Emergency Management, said in the release. 

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet webpage notes that flooding is Kentucky’s No.1 most frequent and costly natural disaster.

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