Last weekend, I was in from college for my great-grandmother’s birthday. I figured it’d be a normal trip home and was more worried about driving through the mountains during a potential snowstorm. It turns out that those fears were entirely unfounded, but I ended up at home just in time for our worst flood since 2005.
When I arrived in town Friday night, the river was high, but the Pomeroy parking lot was still well above water. Over the next two days, the water came up quickly. According to the National Weather Service, the final crest at Pomeroy was 50.4 feet, exactly the same as 2005. However, it was still well below the current record of 68.8 feet during the 1913 flood. Parkersburg and Huntington were forced to close their floodwalls. Blennerhassett Island was almost entirely underwater, save the mansion. Pomeroy recorded a max of almost 2 feet of water inside the first floor of Main Street businesses. Mason, Meigs, and Gallia Counties also saw the closure of multiple roads and damage to some riverside homes.
Certainly, this is nothing new for our region. When the mighty Ohio roars, we move everything to higher ground and wait it out. We’ve been doing this since our ancestors arrived in the valley, and the Native Americans dealt with it before that.
For the business and home owners affected by this flood, especially those of you with relatively new businesses, I have one thing to ask of you. Please don’t give up! I know that the damage may seem discouraging, and that there may be quite a bit of work ahead, but we can get through this. Together. All you have to do is ask and the community will do everything in their power to help. This could mean donating cleaning supplies or helping you rip out ruined flooring. Already, I’ve been seeing calls for donations from organizations across our region.
This has to be one of my favorite things about our home. We take care of our own. The worst floods in our history, those of 1884, 1913, and 1937, all struck during times that were hard enough already. The recessions of 1882-1885, 1913, and the Great Depression had already taken everything. Then, like a headman’s axe, the Ohio rose to strike the final blow. Homes were destroyed, roads and railroads were washed out, and personal possessions were gone forever. Yet, everybody came together to clean out the homes and businesses. People who had nothing gave everything to ensure that their community continued. And continue it did. Our towns rose from the floodwaters, fearless and ready to go another round with Old Man River. This past flood may not have been as destructive as those in the past, but the same principles apply.
La Belle Riviere has thrown the first punch, and it’s our turn to hit back. Help your neighbors clean up. Help your local businesses clean out the mud, rip out the ruined flooring, and put new in. Donate cleaning supplies. Help your community get ready for the next round. Eventually, the waters will come up again. It might be later this year, or it may be in a decade, and like usual, we’ll roll with the punch and repeat the process.
Before ending this article, I want to call attention to a specific organization that needs your help. The Meigs County Historical Society and Museum is in emergency mode. The rains have loosened the hill behind their facility, which was already in bad shape. They’re in the process of moving everything to their new facility in Middleport. If you have a truck or a trailer, or you can help pack up, or you can help lift heavy objects (like display cases), please go over and lend a hand! If you have any questions about helping, you can call them at 740-591-0082.
Do your part, help where you can, and if the water comes up again this weekend, take necessary precautions. And above all, remember that we’ve been here before.
The next meeting of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society, barring extreme weather, will be at 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 11 at the New Haven Library.
Chris Rizer is president of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society.
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