Sunday, July 22, 2001

Flooding makes impact at all income levels

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MONTGOMERY — On Tanager Hills Drive, among brick houses worth $400,000, good fortune has taken an unexpected detour.

        Five nights ago, the back yards of three large houses washed away with Polk Run Creek, exposing white drainage pipes, a sewer line and any inadequate home-insurance policies.

        For 36 consecutive hours, workers from the Metropolitan Sewer District tried to shore up the stream bank. Earlier, the usually passive creek ripped earth from the banks and the back yards like somebody cracking off a piece of Styrofoam.

        At Neal and Kathy Schear's house, a roofer repaired the area where a tree fell against the house. The basement was stripped of carpet, and soiled personal items — a TV, video games, some furniture — were thrown away.

        For two days, Mr. Schear called government offices to request disaster assistance for the area.

        As a kitchen television broadcast more flood news, he said, “I guess I'll have to watch this stuff until my eyeballs fall out.”

        When the family moved into the house three years ago, Mrs. Schear said, an engineer assured them the stream would not threaten the house.

        She blamed the problem on excessive development upstream.

        “This creek has changed drastically,” she said. “It became like a river the other night. These small creeks weren't supposed to carry the amount of runoff they now carry.”

Back yard almost gone
               Next door, Duff Lewis walked onto the brown screened-in porch attached to the back of his house.

        The stream had taken his entire back yard, barely leaving enough earth to support the porch.

        “At least now I've got water front property,” he said.

        Below the cliff, sewer water bubbled in a pool filled with cigarette butts and other things.

        “How's it going?” Mr. Lewis asked Mr. Schear, an accountant who volunteered to call every official from the Hamilton County commissioners to U.S. Rep. Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park.

        “It's been sluggish,” Mr. Schear told him. “I'm turning a lot of wheels right now. There ought to be one person you can go to.”

Hoping for more help
               Several large trucks sat on the wooded street, and repair crews worked into Friday to improve the solidity of the creek bank.

        “I guess people won't feel sorry for anybody living in our neighborhood,” Mr. Schear said as he looked over the embankment that was once his back yard.

        He said his homeowners' insurance will pay for the repairs to his flooded-out finished basement, but another neighbor's will not.


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