BY KYM LIEBLER
The Cincinnati Enquirer
No matter if you were knee-deep in muddy water or stuck in a Cincinnati garage because of rising water, the Ohio River dominated lives and conversations Monday across the Tristate.
The mood was somber at New Richmond High School where exhausted adults and hyper children shed muddy clothes in favor of sweatsuits provided by the American Red Cross. Children played board games on the gymnasium floor while their parents fiddled with ''comfort'' kits, ate heatable meals and wondered when they would return to their homes.
''I think every toy of ours is floating in the water,'' said 6-year-old Jessyca Colonel, who was displaced from her New Richmond home along with her parents and two younger siblings.
Shelter manager Steve Moeggenberg expected 60 people to spend the night on inflatable mattresses and cots. ''If we fill this up, we'll move out to the hallway,'' he said.
TV and radio reports kept many informed on the height and speed of the river. Within no time, people from Clermont County to western Hamilton County were conversing in floodspeak.
''Sixty-two feet or less (river stage) puts it on the floor of the sanctuary,'' said Tom Boyle, 65, as he moved pews, music books and an organ out of New Richmond's Cranston Memorial Presbyterian Church.
About 50 miles to the west, 66-year-old Eugene Lloyd stood outside his Cleves home and watched as the Great Miami River swirled at the base of his front steps.
''Do you think it'll be OK if I put the couch on concrete slabs?'' Mr. Lloyd queried aloud.
In Sayler Park, Connie O'Brien arrived home from work at 4 p.m. and wondered if she had stumbled into a boat show. More than 70 motorboats of all shapes and sizes lined Gracely Drive where she lives. The boats landed there after employees at Mariner's Landing on River Road worried they might break away from flooded docks.
Sightseers stood at Anderson Ferry and watched a trailer slowly floating down the river. ''Unbelievable,'' said Randy Patterson, 24.
Carl Lacey, a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, safeguarded mail he was unable to deliver to Fore & Aft, a River Road restaurant. ''I couldn't get to a cluster of boxes. Just couldn't get there.''
Conditions were no better in Southeastern Indiana where U-Hauls dotted streets and rain-soaked roads were closed to traffic.
In downtown Aurora, moving trucks were pulled up to several businesses along Judiciary and Third streets and Ind. 56, as owners and friends scrambled to remove valuables.
At Aurora Auto Body, Third and Judiciary, people started loading a U-Haul at 8 a.m. as water reached the far side of Judiciary. Owner Moose Feller expected water to reach 6 feet inside his building.
Donna Ruther, owner of Applewood Restaurant on Judiciary, expected at least a couple of feet of water on the first floor. ''We're taking everything up to the second floor, '' she said.
Like many riverside businesses and residents along the Ohio, Mrs. Ruther has no flood insurance. ''We took the chance and now we are going to pay for it.''
Along the Licking River in southern Kenton County, Tom Ryan had left his trailer home along Streep Creek Road on Sunday night where he's lived the last six years - 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. ''I don't know what I'll do.''