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After Flooding From Heavy Storms, More Rain Expected For Columbus

Heavy and prolonged rain this week caused flooding in many areas across Central Ohio. The Olentangy River reached a near-record high, Ohio State’s campus sat under inches of water, parts of Westerville were evacuated, and sections of I-71 and Route 23 were closed Wednesday morning due to high water.

“This has been an ongoing trend," says NBC4 meteorologist Ben Gelber. "2011 was our wettest year and then 2018 came along, and we’re ahead of the pace of the last couple years already, with more than a foot above normal."

But this week still stands out.

“It’s just incredible," Gelber says. "We haven’t seen a river level that high on the Olentangy at that site since January 21, 1959."

Gelber says Tropical Storm Arthur, moving off the eastern seaboard, collided with an upper level pool of cool air.

“It just has been a very slow spiraling rain system, that pulls in tropical Atlantic moisture as well as Gulf moisture,” he says.

Rain is expected through the end of the week, but Gelber says it should mostly clear up in the next few days, with highs in the 70s by Saturday and Sunday. A few pop-up, less intense storms are expected.


A jogger on the Olentangy River trail hits a dead end because of flooding on Tuesday, May 19, 2020.
Credit David Holm / WOSU
A jogger on the Olentangy River trail hits a dead end because of flooding on Tuesday, May 19, 2020.

“We should have at least periods of sun Friday, and then a mix of sun and clouds through the holiday weekend,” he says.

And for those who want certainty in these uncertain times, Gelber also has a fool-proof forecast.

“Hopefully by 2021, the sun will be back,” Gelber jokes. “That’s my long-range prediction.”

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.