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Louisville is under a flash flood watch Wednesday, but how high will the Ohio River get?

Louisville Courier-Journal logo Louisville Courier-Journal 2/14/2020 Billy Kobin, Courier Journal
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The Louisville area will be under a flash flood watch from Wednesday afternoon into Thursday morning, as a steady stream of rain will hit the region and cause the Ohio River to near its minor flood stage by Valentine's Day.

The flash flood watch for Central Kentucky and Southern Indiana will be in effect from 3 p.m. Wednesday until 7 a.m. Thursday, according to the National Weather Service in Louisville.

The region will likely receive one to two inches of rain during that time, with the heaviest downpour expected Wednesday evening. Around 6:30 Wednesday evening, with rain still pouring, the weather service reported anywhere from a half inch to an inch and a half across the county. 

a hand holding a pink umbrella: The crowd braved the rain to watch the 2019 Kentucky Derby Festival Steamboat Race on the Ohio River. May 1, 2019 © Scott Utterback/Courier Journal The crowd braved the rain to watch the 2019 Kentucky Derby Festival Steamboat Race on the Ohio River. May 1, 2019

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To the south and east of Louisville, the stretch of the Bluegrass State from Bowling Green to the Lexington area could receive closer to two inches of rain, according to the NWS.

Minor to moderate river flooding is possible in parts of the state, and drivers should exercise caution on any roadways due to the potential for nearby streams to also overflow.

"With how wet everything's been recently, the ground just can't handle too much rain," said NWS Louisville meteorologist Brian Schoettmer.

So far in 2020, Louisville has received 5.32 inches of rain, which is roughly 0.83 inches above normal for this time of year, according to Schoettmer. 

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Will the Ohio River cause flooding?

In Louisville, the Ohio River at the upper gauge of the McAlpine Locks and Dam was at roughly 18 feet as of 7 a.m. Wednesday, according to NWS data.

By the same time Friday, the rain should be gone and replaced instead with mostly sunny skies but chilly temperatures in the 30s, but the river may rise to roughly 21.5 feet and reach 23 feet after 7 p.m. Friday as Valentine's Day wraps up.

Twenty-three feet is the start of the Ohio River's "Minor Flood Stage" at the McAlpine Upper.

But tell your special someone to not fret too much, as we're not in danger of having the whole city get submerged late on Valentine's Day.

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At the Minor Flood Stage, some sections of River Road are closed from Third to Eighth streets in Louisville along with parts of Campbell Street, Frankfort Avenue and Mockingbird Valley Road, according to the NWS. The Eifler Beach and Juniper Beach areas are also cut off, and right turns onto River Road from the Interstate 64 ramp are prohibited.

Moving downstream closer to New Albany, Indiana, and West Point, Kentucky, the lower gauge of the Ohio River at the McAlpine Locks and Dam should not reach its Minor Flood Stage level of 55 feet until Saturday afternoon.

At that point, some parks and riverfront areas in New Albany and Clarksville flood, and some yards along US 31W (Dixie Highway) from Pleasure Ridge Park to West Point also may flood, according to the National Weather Service.

Besides rain, what's the forecast?

Apart from a small chance of rain Thursday morning, the Louisville area will dry out for the rest of the week. Thursday has an expected high near 39 degrees and low around 16 degrees.

Valentine's Day on Friday will be dry but chilly, with a high near 32 and lows possibly dipping into the teens, according to the weather service.

Saturday will warm back up, however, with highs in the upper 40s along with mostly sunny skies and low temperatures in the upper 30s. 

Sunday could top 50 degrees for a high, according to the NWS office in Louisville, with partly sunny skies and a low temperature at night around 35 degrees.

Reach Billy Kobin at bkobin@courierjournal.com or 502-582-7030. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/subscribe.

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This article originally appeared on Courier Journal: Louisville is under a flash flood watch Wednesday, but how high will the Ohio River get?

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