Sunday, February 20, 2000

Falmouth was prepared this time

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FALMOUTH — Falmouth was as ready as a small town can be when the river rose. On Saturday, the Falmouth police station looked like a Pentagon war room. Maps and charts covered the walls. It was all about strategy.

        Unlike the fatal flood of '97, which destroyed much of the town of 2,500, residents were prepared.

Special section
        “We never expected to do it again this soon,” said Craig Peoples, disaster and emergency services director. “We know what we didn't know to do three years ago.

        “You never get used to it, you just get better at it.”

        Giant wall charts listed everything from street closings to special requests. Every hour or so, fire, police and other officials came to check on the latest National Weather Service report.

        They were prepared for the Licking River to rise to 41 feet by 7 p.m. Saturday — 13 feet above flood stage. It stopped at about 36 feet. But people remembered well what happened when the river hit 52 feet three years ago, and they knew 41 feet wouldn't be good, either. They got out.

        “Once bitten, you're a little leery when the water starts coming up,” said Dave Barnett, coordinator of the emergency operations center. “Pretty much by about 10 o'clock (Friday night), 40 percent of one side of the town had already moved out.

        “Had you been through one and lost everything, wouldn't you be just a little nervous? A lot nervous.”

        At the command post, amateur radio operators helped direct the troops. American Red Cross volunteers set up a shelter at the old middle school but closed it Saturday afternoon. Only one person had to use it. National Guard troops filled sandbags in the parking lot behind Hardees. Sandbags were placed behind the police station and at the water plant to protect the two buildings from the rising water.

        Officials used a map created after the '97 flood to notify residents which streets would flood and when.

        “Anything we knew was 42 feet and below we concentrated on,” Mr. Peoples said. “Now we have flood-response levels.”

        They could zero in on Rigg and Pendleton streets in a way they couldn't in 1997. And the community knows what to watch out for. They moved furniture into their attics or to barns on higher ground.

        “People are just trying to be prepared and get out of the way of the flood,” said Brenda Booher, a Red Cross volunteer. “We didn't want anything like we did last time. What's the Red Cross slogan, "Help can't wait'?

        “Well, help couldn't wait.”

        Jane Prendergast contributed to this report.


Falmouth floodwater receding
- Falmouth was prepared this time
Residents loyal to flood-prone town
Drag the kids to chat with Charlie Taft
Three politicians, one big stadium mess
We'll all pay for rushing stadium
Readers blame commissioners, voters
Unfair to drug pushers
Central State touts gains since crisis
Enquirer photo staff named state's best
Judicial race turns bitter
Magazine names Berry best of century
Queen City's moments to shine reflected in book
UC sorority suspended over hazing complaints
Problems take back seat to lawmakers' religion obsession
Scanner fans on the same wavelength
Container bill faces long haul
Kunzel, Pops plan explosive TV Fourth
CSO Riverbend schedule
Tennille, Little headline with Pops
Victorian era boasts variety
Flagg Collection complements Taft
H.T. Chen dances are savory blend
Rehabbed Emery would fill gap
Ski for Light inspires 'can do' belief
Strauss, old Vienna enliven Music Hall
Troupe's 'Taming of the Shrew' fun, well-acted, wonderfully new
'2Gether' delightful spoof of boy bands
Dance company director stickler for details
Deerfield parks get gifts
Former Congresswoman relishes political rebirth
Game honors Mason pair
Herbs can aid cancer patients
Man found fatally shot outside Silverton apartment building
New jail may mean a tax hike
Old stagecoach line alive
Research to aid polluted lakes, rivers
State has $1M for character education
To social historian, ray guns not just toys