Irma Expected to Dodge Ohio Valley, But Officials Remain on Alert

WHEELING — The remnants of Hurricane Irma are expected to miss the Upper Ohio Valley, although the area still could see some rain from the massive storm during the middle of next week.

But with Irma set to make landfall in Florida early today, that forecast could change — and Ohio County Emergency Management Director Lou Vargo said local responders will be ready.

“We have been having weather briefings daily. Once Irma makes landfall, the path may change and the EMA will respond to that,” Vargo said, noting Irma’s remnants are likely to head west of the Wheeling area.

According to the National Weather Service, the Upper Ohio Valley is not located within the storm’s “cone of uncertainty” — the probable track that the storm will take as it heads inland.

“The latest forecast tells us that (Irma) will be heading toward Tennessee next week and we will see some rain next Wednesday in the Northern Panhandle,” said Pittsburgh-based NWS meteorologist Mike Fries.

The only effects the Ohio Valley should see from Irma are increasing clouds on Monday followed by scattered rain showers on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to NWS. The storm then will be absorbed into another system with additional rain showers possible on Thursday.

It’s been almost 13 years since the remnants Hurricane Ivan caused widespread flooding in the area. And in July, a major rain event caused flash flooding in Ohio, Marshall and Wetzel counties from which impacted residents are still struggling to recover.

Among those hoping the forecast holds and Irma misses the Ohio Valley is small business owner Evan Laird, who operates Massage One in the Elm Grove area of Wheeling. His building took on water in the late-July flash flood, and he doesn’t want to see a repeat.

“My business was flooded and the flooring is pretty much destroyed,” Laird said. “Thankfully, the furniture and supplies were all right, but the damage is still there.”

Vargo said anyone seeking information about preparing for emergency weather situations can call the Ohio County EMA at 304-234-3756.

As Irma makes its way toward Florida, the Category 5 storm already had been blamed for more than 20 deaths across the Caribbean by late Friday. The dead included 11 on St. Martin and St. Barts, four in the U.S. Virgin Islands, four in the British Virgin Islands and one each on Anguilla and Barbuda.