Tuesday, March 4, 1997
As water ebbs,
damage despairing

Facing massive cleanup,
'We need a lot of prayers'

The Cincinnati Enquirer

FALMOUTH, Ky.- Daybreak Monday brought hope and heartache to the thousands of Pendleton County residents left homeless by the flooded Licking River.

As the skies turned from black to gray, people ventured out into the cold rain, trying to make sense of the water world before them.

Pete Price stood at the Woodson Road railroad crossing and looked blankly at a house across what is now a canal.

He pulled someone's easy chair off the railroad tracks. It might have come from one of two homes now sitting crushed together farther down the rail line, hundreds of yards from their foundations.

''My ex mother-in-law lives there and we don't know if she got out. I thought maybe she might be on the second floor,'' Mr. Price said.

Water levels dropped about 3 feet Monday - from 52 feet to 49 feet - giving people a better idea of the damage. Flood stage along this stretch of the Licking is 42 feet.

Emergency personnel said Monday all Falmouth residents affected by the floodwaters were accounted for. Two persons once feared to be dead were found late Sunday, Deputy Sheriff Craig Peoples said.

The goal now is to keep people at home or in shelters and off the roads, Deputy Peoples said.

Rural/Metro Ambulance was called to help transport River Valley Nursing Home residents from a shelter at the Plum Creek Christian Church, north of Butler in Campbell County, to St. Luke Hospital East in Fort Thomas.

National Guard troops and volunteer firefighters planned to seal off the town Monday night to outsiders except those trucking in water, food, gasoline, hospital beds and other supplies.

During the day, many residents wandered those streets left dry, marveling at the damage. Some talked of getting in boats and trying to row out to their homes and businesses.

Bill Bennett, owner of Bennett's Personal Care Home, walked with a friend north on U.S. 27 until the water stopped him.

To his left, the county fairgrounds looked like a fishing village with lamp posts resembling forgotten pilings.

In front of him, in the middle of the swamped road, stood the white, two-story home of Eva Sue Cavanaugh, looking as if it suffered a head-on collision.

The Bennetts' business - carrying for 21 mentally challenged adults in a pre-Civil War era two-story home - is likely destroyed.

But everyone is safe. After two evacuations, the group was preparing to move again Monday to a Williamstown church.

''We marched them out through back fields, and mud and water, and they brought us here,'' Mr. Bennett said.

Rhonda Bennett said all the residents have is what's on their backs.

Just below U.S. 25 on Montjoy Street, Nadine Perry was collecting the very thing that swamped the city.

Pots, pans, bowls and cups were set up on her porch, catching rainwater she will later boil and use to drink or cook.

''We've got no heat and no electric and no phones,'' Mrs. Perry said.

But the Perrys were lucky. They had their home.

Inside shelters at the St. Luke Treatment Facility and the Southside Church of Christ, feelings of fear and panic had shifted to those of uncertainty.

With plenty of time to kill, displaced residents prayed their belongings and property would be salvageable - knowing those things, despite those prayers, had likely been destroyed.

Wanda Lancaster, 68, lost everything.

''I've never seen anything like this. It's much worse than the 1964 flood and I'm about ready to go to the desert,'' Mrs. Lancaster said.

Said Falmouth Councilman L.T. Varnum: ''We survived in 1964 and a tornado in 1968.'' Only the roof of his Shelby Street home was visible above the flood.

Tears came and his lower lip trembled as Mr. Varnum continued, ''We need a lot of prayers.''