River Road closed to traffic

Water bubbles up from a manhole in the middle of River Road as the Ohio River flows swiftly past in the background. The river should crest today at 15.2 feet, or above flood stage, officials have said. River Road is expected to be covered with water, resulting in its closure this morning to all traffic. (Photo by Jo Ann Bobby-Gilbert)

EAST LIVERPOOL — City officials are keeping a wary eye on the Ohio River, which is expected to crest above flood levels today, causing at least one city street to be closed.

Latest reports Monday night from the National Weather Service indicated the river will crest at 15.2 feet this morning, which is higher than the 14 feet estimated earlier in the day Monday but lower than the 16.5 feet originally predicted.

Service-Safety Director Brian Allen has been monitoring closely the river’s rise, having already closed River Road Sunday night to through traffic, limiting it to just residents and those headed for commercial enterprises along the river.

Police officers and Allen reported Monday drivers were nonetheless consistently ignoring the barriers placed near the Broadway Wharf, actually driving around the cruiser and going to the wharf or down River Road to see the rising water. One man reportedly went around the police cruiser to the wharf so he could eat his lunch, telling an officer he would leave when he was done eating, according to Allen, who said, “He was told, ‘You will leave now.'”

Monday night, Allen witnessed a vehicle not only go past the barrier but over the railroad track where the emergency lights and gates were activated as a train approached, with the car driving to the wharf.

Allen emphasized driving on a closed highway is illegal and will result in tickets being issued.

He said the latest estimate of 15.2 feet will definitely put the river over its bank and over the roadway, and River Road will be closed at about 4 a.m. today to all traffic.

Allen said he went door to door Monday, advising residents along River Road they should consider evacuating before the road is closed, cautioning them he will not be able to send emergency vehicles through the rising water to their homes. He said none of the residents seemed interested in leaving.

The boat ramp at the wharf was completely submerged Monday, while the docks were also partially covered as the water also crept up the front of the wharf.

Meanwhile, members of the East Liverpool Boat Club at the lower end of River Road spent hours in the torrential rains Saturday and Sunday, removing boats from the river and lashing docks to the shore to prevent them from being washed away, according to member Ed Croxall.

They also spent time on Babb’s Island securing boats and docks.

The last time the river rose, water was up to the rafters in the boat club pavilion, according to Croxall.