PADUCAH, KY (KFVS) - The City of Paducah is removing a floodgate so the Convention Center can get back to business on Tuesday, March 5.
Water levels allowed the gate to come down between the Julian Carroll Convention Center and the Holiday Inn Paducah Riverfront.
According to the City, the large gate in front of the Convention Center at 5th St. will remain in place for now.
The City of Paducah installed additional floodgates on Monday, Feb. 25.
The river stage for the Ohio River at Paducah at 2 p.m. Feb. 22 is 50.91 feet.
On Monday Feb. 25, the floodgates that provide access to the Convention Centers were closed.
According to the City, the floodgate at 4th Street and Park Avenue remained open Saturday, February 23 to allow for Convention Center events scheduled for that day .
On Sunday, February 24, the City had a contractor scheduled to install the HESCO flood barriers around the Convention Center to protect it from the rising river.
These are the same barriers used in the past to protect the facilities.
“I am laser-focused on the Ohio River and the floodwall," City Engineer-Public Works Director Rick Murphy said. "The installation of the gates at 10 more locations on Monday will provide protection up to a river stage of 55 feet. If we see another crest increase next week, then we will be ready to install the final set of floodgates. I want the community to know that we are staying ahead of Mother Nature and making all of the necessary safety preparations.”
With the expectation of the Ohio River to crest nearly two feet higher than originally forecast, officials in Paducah, Ky. were playing it safe by installing additional floodgates.
The Ohio River at Paducah was expected to crest at 51.5 on Sunday, Feb. 24. As of 2 p.m. on Feb. 20 the river had already surpassed 48.9 feet.
City crews installed floodgates in nine locations in the downtown area on Tuesday, Feb. 19. Those gates were put in place to protect the downtown area at a flood stage of 51 feet.
With the updated crest and the possibility that it could increase again, crews closed four additional locations on Thursday, Feb. 20.
The closures protected the city of Paducah to a flood stage of 52.5 feet.
“I want the public to know that we are entering the spring flood season," City Engineer-Public Works Director Rick Murphy said. "These floodgates will remain installed for a prolonged period of time. We don’t want to prematurely take them down and then have to quickly reinstall them. As a reminder, the 2011 flood event occurred in April with the Ohio River cresting in early May just over 55 feet.”
Murphy said they were closely watching the river and how it’s reacting in real time.
New and seasoned business on the riverfront are happy to see the city taking a cautious approach.
Mike Reber owns the a gym called Kettlebell Club on Broadway Street steps away from where the gates are being installed.
Reber has been at his location since 2011, the last major flooding.
“When they put up the gates, I know I’m safe," Reber said. "We’re not impacted that badly, I’m just glad they’re doing it.”
A few business doors down sits a quaint European cafe called Confleur.
The owner Peter Barnett says he opened his cafe last Fall with the Riverfront’s heritage and aesthetics in mind.
He also says, while his customers may not be able to walk on the Riverfront, at least they are safe.
“When they put the floodgates out, other than not being about to wander across the front of the river, other than that you barely notice it and it’s just nice to be protected,” Barnett said.
Crews prepared the gate openings by removing the bottom plates and cleaning the sills of any debris.
City Manager Jim Ardnt says it took more than 120 workers to get it done.
“It’s a combination of public works department, a combination of the fire department, little bit of help from police, city managers office, and engineering just making sure that we get it do it efficiently and effectively," Ardnt said.
The floodgates were last installed in February 2018.
A flash flood watch has been issued for all of western Kentucky as well as Mississippi and New Madrid Counties in Missouri.
Most of the city’s pump stations are already in operation due to the river level.
The City of Paducah had declared a State of Emergency. This action submitted to the State was to help the city receive reimbursement for costs associated with the floodgate installation and related actions. Costs that may be reimbursed include overtime for personnel, equipment rental, and the hiring of contractors.
As a reminder, pedestrian and vehicle traffic are not allowed on or near the floodwall and floodgates. For safety, do not drive around barricades.
The City of Paducah is also encouraging people to be careful on the levee portion of the Greenway Trail between Noble Park and downtown Paducah.
With the recent rain and flooding, the City is working to remove water trapped on the inside of the floodwall. Watch for items such as cones and piping.