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River to crest at 23.3 feet tonight

January 14, 2013

Disabled vehicle in water on US 224 at Bellmont High entrance Monday morning. (Photo by J Swygart)

    With a 23.3-foot flood crest expected on the St. Marys River tonight following weekend rainfall of two and a half inches in Decatur, there is some good news: No more rain is in the forecast through Friday.
    Snow melt combined with the rain drove the St. Marys River from 10.1 feet on Friday morning to 22.9 feet at 7 a.m. today!    
     Officials at the Decatur weather station said this morning that after a slight bit of rain on Friday, the city received 2.3 inches of rain Saturday and .23 of an inch on Sunday. Since Thursday, rainfall here has totaled 3.3 inches.
    With all that, there also was some good fortune: Sleet and possible snowfall forecast for this area late Sunday night into this morning did not materialize.
    It's a good thing because the situation was bad enough this morning, with traffic an absolute mess in the area around Bellmont high and middle schools.
    A car which got hung up in the water around 7:25 a.m. on E. Monroe St. caused a major traffic jam. Officials were attempting to have it removed by wrecker as soon as possible.
    School traffic compounded the problems.
    US 224 in the area around the entrance to the high school was closed at 7 a.m. today. Two disabled vehicles were in the water there, one of which had to be removed. The river's current, one official said, "was too strong" to remove the other one.
    In addition, a semi coming through the high water had its brakes frozen — it was 17 degrees at 7 a.m. — and was disabled for a time.
    Street/Sanitation Superintendent Jeremy Gilbert said E. Monroe St. was passable after the stranded vehicle was removed, and would be monitored through the day to determine if it might have to be closed.
    That is a possibility with the National Weather Service predicting the St. Marys would crest at 22.3 feet here around 8 tonight.
    The river's record high of 26.92 feet was reached on July 9, 2003.
    The cold temperatures were creating some hazardous driving situations. Gilbert said vehicles tracking through the water were throwing up water which then became frozen.
    "There are some slick places out there,  so we're urging people to be cautious," he said. "And please don't try to drive through high water. It can cause some very dangerous situations, for the people involved as well as the first-responders.
    Adams County highway department supervisor Mark Mitchel at 7 a.m. today said "all the river roads — all the usual suspects — are closed" throughout the county due to high water.
    Mitchel said flood waters began to cross roadways Friday afternoon from the Wabash River between Linn Grove and Berne and in the Geneva area and has left debris across some roadways.
    With temperatures in the teens this morning, Mitchel also said some roads are icy "where water has ponded."
    Flooding was also occurring in the Willshire, Ohio, area, with Ohio 81 reported unofficially closed by high this morning.
    As noted, the weather bureau says partly sunny to sunny skies will prevail over at least the next three days in Decatur area, with highs around 30 today and Tuesday and lows of 18 to 20. Winds are predicted to be mostly light today and tomorrow.
    Wednesday's high may climb to 35, the weather bureau said, when winds are forecast to pick up.

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