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Ohio River Levels To Rise Over Weekend

The Metropolitan Sewer District plans to activate Louisville's Flood Protection System on Thursday in response to rising river levels.

The National Weather Service predicts the river will crest Monday at about 20 feet, which is just about one foot below the action level when the river starts to flow outside its banks.

In the meantime, MSD plans to activate some flood gates and at least six pump stations to help prevent floodwaters from backing up local waterways.

"Right now we are looking at being in flood mode, or minor flood mode by Monday and then if the river keeps going we keep adding stations," said JP Carsone, an MSD spokesperson. "With the size of the event we have, we've got it covered."

MSD received more than 300 calls between Wednesday and Thursday related to the rains. Carsone said the ground is saturated, but MSD doesn't expect flash flooding to be much of an issue as long as the current forecast holds.

Last February, MSD estimated more than 40 billion gallons of rain fell over the course of five days causing the city’s largest river flooding since 1997.

Now seems like a good time to mention that much of Louisville's Flood Protection System is nearing or has surpassed its expected design life. Several pump stations are in need of upgrades to electrical equipment and few have backup power supplies.

Some pump stations are still under repair from problems that occurred during last February's flooding events, Carsone said.

Overall, MSD anticipates it needs to spend about $683 million on the flood protection system for repairs and upgrades.

Not to be a downer, but the American Society of Civil Engineers just gave the state as a whole a grade of "D+" for its levee systems, of which Louisville's is the largest section.

If a catastrophic river flood were to happen today in Louisville, it could affect more than 200,000 residents and as much as $34 billion in property, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Oh, and climate change is expected to increase the frequency of severe storms in the Ohio Valley, bringing with it an increased risk of flash-flooding and river-flooding events.

Ryan Van Velzer is the Kentucky Public Radio Managing Editor. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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