A bronze statue of James Audubon at Riverside Drive and Shelby Street is slowly finding itself surrounded by the rising waters of the Licking and Ohio rivers. The second photo shows Chief Little Turtle. The third, the other end of Riverside Drive. And the fourth and the fifth, the Madison Overlook floodgate.
As Ohio River rises, Public Works takes steps
COVINGTON, Ky. – With the rising Ohio River now covering parts of Riverside Drive and lapping at the gap in the floodwall at the foot of Madison Avenue, the City of Covington has taken the first steps in its flood response plan.
Specifically, the sluice gates at Willow Run have been closed, barriers are blocking traffic from Riverside Drive, and the bottom row of the Madison Overlook floodgate has been installed.
The good news is that the river isn’t supposed to rise much higher. As of this morning, it was measured at 55 feet and expected to crest Thursday at 56 feet, according to the National Weather Service’s Ohio River Forecast Center.
The water doesn’t start coming through the gate at the foot of Madison Avenue until about 57 feet, said Brad Schwenke, supervisor of the Parks & Facilities Division in Public Works.
“The river is unpredictable and the forecast has been all over the place, so we’re mostly just being cautious,” Schwenke said. “Thank goodness we’re not seeing the widespread flooding that’s causing such damage down south in Eastern Kentucky.”
Schwenke said about a dozen Public Works crew members worked Monday and Tuesday to put together the many parts of the gate, which has been likened to a gigantic version of a child’s K’Nex or Erector set.
The first day crews installed anchors in the footer holes and filled about 500 sandbags. With the muddy river rushing by on Tuesday, they brought in a crane to lower the A-frame parts and the massive panels that span the gap in the floodwall.
After weeks full of double shifts spent plowing snow and spreading salt, the flood response was just another day in the life of the Public Works Department, Schwenke said.
“The gate has a lot of parts and takes time to put together, but we’re getting fairly quick about it,” he said. “With the weather being what it is, we just stay flexible.”
The Madison Overlook gate is one of seven in Covington and the first to be installed when the Ohio and Licking rivers start rising. It was erected once last year, once in 2019, twice in 2018 and once in 2015, after not being put up for over a decade.
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