Tuesday, March 4, 1997
River still rising,
residents warned

BY ADAM WEINTRAUB,
LAURA GOLDBERG and LUCY MAY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati City Manager John Shirey issued a firm warning Monday to city residents who think they can ride out high waters: This is not your typical flood.

And, weather forecasters added, it's just going to get worse.

Look at the flood waters around your home and picture them 4 to 6 feet deeper, Mr. Shirey advised. Then, he said, plan to evacuate.

''We're worried about people underestimating the height of the waters and overestimating their ability to stick it out,'' he said.

More rain in the forecast will keep pushing river levels higher.

''We do have precipitation in the forecast, coming up for midweek,'' said Diane Innes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio. ''Depending on when and where it falls, it could keep the rivers high, or it could give us a second crest after the water recedes.''

The forecast calls for the Ohio River to crest at 64 feet at Cincinnati - 12 feet above flood stage and the highest since 1964 - about 7 p.m. Wednesday. That's 6 feet above levels at midday Monday.

City officials also cautioned that cold temperatures - expected to remain below 40 at night - could pose problems to residents if utilities get cut off.

People should consider how they would stay in their homes without heat before thinking they could just move upstairs and ride out the flood, Mr. Shirey said.

Cincinnati Fire Chief Thomas Steidel said Monday the city had helped 50 to 70 people evacuate homes. Others left on their own.

''This ain't a flood to mess around with,'' he said.

The Columbia Parkway YMCA at Columbia Parkway and Delta Avenue has been set up as a shelter for displaced residents. Eight families were there Monday night, most from the East End.

Becky Wilder, 41, of 250 Wenner Street, was there with her daughter, Rachael, 21.

''Water completely filled my basement. I had to put a lot of clothes and belongings on a table, but the water rose so fast that it turned the table over,'' Becky Wilder said.

Said Rachael: ''It scared me to death when I looked out the back door and I could see the water rising. Later on, I could just see it bubbling in the basement.''

Steve Pelcha, 38, of California, came to the center soaked. He said he was loading dressers onto a boat when the boat flipped and he fell in the water. He swam to a tree and held on until someone came to rescue him.

Officials expect that closed roads will worsen traffic problems and that flooding will eliminate 2,000 downtown riverfront parking spaces.

Metro will run free morning and afternoon shuttles to accommodate drivers who typically park on the riverfront.

The shuttles will run from Union Terminal in the West End, where 300 spaces will be made available for commuters, every 5 to 10 minutes from 7 to 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Extra buses will run from Beechmont Mall, where an additional 400 spaces will be freed up along the parking lot periphery.

Also, Metro Center will open at 5:30 this morning to take questions and help people with bus routes, some of which have been affected by flooding. For assistance, call 621-4455.

There's a 50 percent chance of rain Wednesday, and precipitation is lurking toward the end of the week, too.

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