With this weekend's storms already dumping 4 to 6 inches of rain throughout Southern Illinois and more on the way, the Ohio River at Cairo could reach record levels later this week if the projected trend of river levels continues.
The river was at 52.76 feet a few minutes ago at 1 p.m. Major flood stage at 53 feet will be reached within a few hours.
The National Weather Forecast only goes out to Friday morning when they project 58.5 feet, just one foot before the record of 59.5 set back in the 1937 record flood.
At around 1 a.m. Wednesday the river is expected to reach 56 feet. At that point U.S. Rt. 51 near Wickliffe, Ky., floods. Later that day the river will surpass the 1997, 1927 and 1975 floods at 56.2, 56.4 and 56.5 feet.
Even if the water hits the 1937 flood levels at Cairo, the city still has another 4.5 feet of levee height to protect it.
I'll have to pull out some history, but if I recall correctly, the mayor of Cairo ordered the city evacuated except for all albe-bodied male citizens who were required to stay and assist with sandbagging and other emergency efforts.
The situation is quite as bad at Paducah where the river was 46.36 feet at 1 p.m. and is projected to reach 53 feet on Friday, which means it will likely surpass the fourth worst crest of 53.2 feet from the 1950 flood.
If the tornado and storms of yesterday didn't cause damaged already, property damage from flooding will begin at 47 feet. At 49.5 feet, the first flood gate will be closed at Paducah. If it hasn't been done already, it will be likely be closed tomorrow as that level will be reached within the next 24 to 30 hours. Major flooding will begin to occur on both sides of the river when the waters reach 52 feet which is currently predicted for around 1 p.m. Thursday.
If waters continue to rise the next major impact occurs at 56 feet (which would be the second worst flood after the '37 one). At that point many of the industrial plants upstream at Calvert City, Ky., become impacted.