Tuesday, March 4, 1997
Riverside firms
losing income

Eateries empty; producers pack up

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Ohio River flooding slowed commerce of all kinds in the Tristate Monday, sending businesses to scramble for storage space, schedule alternate transportation or close and wait for a drier day.

Rising water washed out rail lines, stranded barges, engulfed docks and loading cranes, closed manufacturing plants, swamped restaurants and crimped casinos.

Hundreds of employees at riverfront businesses were either sent home or enlisted to pile sandbags, reroute trucks or load and unload goods destined for higher ground.

Flatow-Riley Inc., whose warehouse is on Plum Street, moved 20 truckloads of produce in about five hours Monday morning, said Rod Caminiti, vice president. ''We had no indication the water was coming,'' he said.

The economic toll won't be known for weeks, perhaps months, as companies tally their expenses and try to make up for lost time.

Manufacturing companies either closed riverfront plants or cut operations drastically. Josh Minkove, vice president of I. Deutch & Sons scrap yard on Baymiller Street, said rising water slowed operations at its riverfront loading dock by half.

Mr. Minkove was angry. ''It's inexcusable for this to happen with all the river warning systems available. Somebody must have been asleep for this to happen.''

Bayer Co., the former Monsanto plastics plant in Addyston that employs 650, was operating at 25 percent of capacity Monday afternoon.

Ashland Inc. shut its Valvoline Packaging plant on River Road in Riverside as well as an adjoining bulk terminal.

Barge and rail companies expect the river's wrath from time to time, but they say the water rose with unusual velocity.

Midland Enterprises Inc., the parent of Ohio River Co., had eight of its 20 boats stranded between closed locks, said Steve Frasher, vice president of operations.

Water deluged a Norfolk Southern rail line between Portsmouth and Cincinnati. The company rerouted most traffic through Columbus.

The line is expected to re-open today.

Portions of CSX Transportation Inc.'s line from Cincinnati to Corbin, Ky., sat 8 feet under water, said Robert Gould, a company spokesman. Sixty trains were being held throughout the system, causing numerous delays and route changes.

Riverfront restaurant owners said they are losing thousands of dollars daily, but they said last spring's flooding was worse.

''Last year it was a major impact,'' said Alan Bernstein, part owner of Bensons Inc. ''This year hopefully it won't be as bad.''

Bensons operates BB Riverboats, Mike Fink Restaurant and Crockett's River Cafe and partly owns Covington Landing, all of which closed Sunday.

The Montgomery Inn Boathouse also closed.

The threat that access roads would flood closed the Grand Victoria Casino in Rising Sun, Ind. About 300 employees have the next two or three days off, said a spokesman.

Argosy Casino in Lawrenceburg remained open Monday evening.

David Dawson, director of marketing for the Indiana & Ohio Rail System, spent part of Monday worrying where his company would unload animals for the Ringling Bros. circus. The planned Riverfront Coliseum delivery point is under water.

The new plan is to unload the animals near the Montgomery Inn Boathouse, about a half mile from the arena. Elephants and horses will hoof it the rest of the way; lions and tigers will ride by truck.

''It's not ideal, but it will work,'' Mr. Dawson said.

Reporters Lisa Biank Fasig, Guy Boulton and Perry Brothers contributed to this report.