Tuesday, March 4, 1997
Thousands forced
to abandon homes

What car can't hold gets left behind

BY CINDY SCHROEDER and GREGORY A. HALL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A flood many described as the worst to hit Campbell and Kenton counties in 33 years closed riverfront businesses from Covington to Dayton on Monday. As many as 2,500 people fled their homes.

It virtually shut down government and business operations in five low-lying southern Campbell County communities.

''They can sure say March came in like a lion,'' said Lanis Allen Sr., who helped his sister move her belongings from her flooded home in Bromley on Monday.

Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties Monday declared states of emergency, and flood gates went up from Covington to Dayton.

No flood-related injuries were reported in the three counties as of Monday night. No damage estimates were available.

The tiny Campbell County city of California was virtually a ghost town. U.S. Postal Service officials had the town's trailer-based post office towed to higher ground Monday morning.

In neighboring Silver Grove, officials moved tax records and other documents out of the city building on Oak Street late Sunday. By Monday, the building was partly submerged.

In Covington and Newport, high water forced the closure of dozens of roads. Most Ohio riverfront businesses, including restaurants, were expected to be closed today.

Bromley resident Judy Allen said she's frustrated with flooding and may move, echoing comments made by residents throughout Campbell and Kenton counties.

''I probably won't come back here,'' she said Monday. ''This is probably it for me.''

In Campbell County, where at least 1,500 people were forced from their homes, shelters were opened at Plum Creek Christian Church near Grants Lick and St. Joseph's Church in Cold Spring.

Most of Campbell County's evacuees were from the low-lying town of Silver Grove, where officials were recommending at 8 p.m. Monday that the remaining 400 of the town's 1,100 residents leave. Rising waters threatened to cut off Four Mile Road, the only way out.

At 2 p.m., Silver Grove firefighters drove the streets of Lakeview Trailer Park, warning residents by public address system to leave by 3 p.m. or risk being trapped.

''I was going to stick around, but they're ordering us out,'' said Kurt Stewart, as he loaded several two-liter bottles of pop and a bulging suitcase into his Buick LeSabre. ''I'm having to leave behind about everything we own. That includes a $5,000 stereo system we just made the last payment on.''

Like many of their neighbors, single parent Sandy Keeler and daughter Shannon, 4, fled with what they could fit in the back of their Blazer.

In Covington, about 115 trailers were evacuated Sunday night from the Shady Shores Trailer Park on the Licking River. Mayor Denny Bowman declared the city in a state of emergency, allowing officials to force people from their homes under threat of arrest. Officers were assigned to guard the trailer park and other evacuated areas to prevent looting, Assistant Police Chief Bill Dorsey said.

Two areas that weren't affected by the flood - fire departments in Fort Thomas and Cold Spring - are collecting clothing, nonperishable foods, and toys for distribution in southern Campbell and Pendleton counties. To help, contact city offices or fire departments in those communities.

The waters posed little problem in Boone County. Three families along Bender Road were evacuated, said Bill Appleby, director of the Office of Emergency Management.

Residents along the Licking River in southern Kenton County weren't so lucky.

On Sunday night, Tom Ryan left his trailer home along Streep Creek Road with a prayer that water would stop short of his Ryland residence.

''But it didn't work.''

Late Monday afternoon, Mr. Ryan used a trailer to move his final belongings. He said he doesn't know if he has flood insurance.

''If it don't cover it, then I'm ruined,'' he said.

FLOOD STORIES
FLOOD PHOTOS