Tops in area news in the past week was flooding of rivers and inland creeks due to heavy rain and even a surprise snowfall on Feb. 17. As you’re reading this, it may be raining again and another few days of high water watching is in store, as forecast by various meteorologists.
To some folks, especially those living in flood-prone areas, this situation only makes things worse if their property has been flooded. The images of an inundated downtown Pomeroy from earlier in the week, replaced by those of the painstaking clean-up that followed by owners of affected businesses, are not soon forgotten.
Still, this coming week will see others checking the usual suspects when it comes to roads that hug the rivers and creeks with embankments that are easily breached. And there are more people who see flooding as a sure sign that spring will be a little early this year.
That’s because conditions that create high water point to an upturn in temperatures, melting what snow there is and turning what could be snow into rain — lots of it, sometimes. In other words, the weather assuming a warmer cast indicates winter’s on its way out of our neighborhood, despite the predictions of Punxsutawney Phil, Buckeye Chuck, French Creek Freddie, and the Old or New Farmer’s Almanac, depending on which edition you trust. They inform us that winter officially ends in the third week of March.
And while record-setting daytime highs were seen this past week, it’s equally true that mild conditions may be replaced by another freeze or snowfall by the time spring makes its return. But for now, as warmth goes in and out, and February sometimes feels like May, renewal of the earth beneath us gets a jump start. The cold begins to leave the ground, the not-unpleasant odor of the moist soil makes itself known, and frogs emit that high-pitched din as warmer days, encouraged by the increasingly later arrival of sunset, wear on (and for those who want to know, Spring Forward this year is March 11). These are the sensations that the nearing end of winter create in our neck of Ohio and West Virginia, but are also the same known to this writer while growing up next to a dairy farm in New York State.
And with this re-invigoration of the world around us comes a renewal of the spirit, one that’s most welcome given how tough this winter has been. Tough in that the cold cut into fall a little too soon, and in the prevalence of a persistent flu strain throughout the country. For a lot of people who have felt cabin fever more keenly this winter due to the chill or illness, the promise of improved conditions cheers us all a little. Similarly, getting away from the distractions of the 24-hour news cycle and social media does help improve your mental outlook. At least it does mine.
Of course, all of this may change in a moment’s notice. As March approaches, there are reminders of what an incredibly fickle month it can be as far as the weather goes. Case in point: a brief trip to Holmes County, Ohio, made with my wife and mother-in-law last March. We departed on a beautifully sunny day that was also the windiest we’d seen in some time. We found the gale followed us all the way up I-77 and lasted for the rest of the day.
The night before we left Berlin, just east of Millersburg, the temperature had dropped from a bearable daytime high of 45 or something like that to just below freezing, allowing it to snow about an inch before ending sometime before dawn. Ah, life that close to Lake Erie. However, the hotel where we stayed had fire pits that were lit and continued to burn through the snowfall, creating a marvelous effect for us to view from our room.
It almost made me wish we’d stay another night, until that area’s forecast predicted more snow and highs only in the 20s for the next couple of days. After hearing that projection, I was all for going home where it was at least 10 degrees warmer and drier. For that part of eastern Ohio we visited for two days, I had a feeling spring was going to be a little late in 2017.
So yes, high water is inconvenient at the least and downright perilous for those motorists who think they can get their vehicles across that lake where a state highway once existed, but it does tell us that once the water recedes back into the Ohio and Kanawha, things will get better. But until it does so, be careful out there.
Kevin Kelly, who was affiliated with Ohio Valley Publishing for 21 years, resides in Vinton, Ohio.