Sunday, July 22, 2001

Shop owner decides to forge on

Alvarez: 'What choice is there?'

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP — In 13 years of operating Victoria's Studio and Gallery in Olde West Chester, Victoria Alvarez has been hit before by floodwaters.

        But it was never like last week.

        “It was like Niagara Falls rushing through,” Ms. Alvarez says, pausing from her cleanup efforts while recalling Tuesday's overnight storms that dumped more than 5 inches of rain.

        “Chunks of my yard are gone. My gardens got washed away in the creek. It's so devastating. People are so clueless unless you go through it. Within 45 minutes the creek came up 3 feet over its banks.”

        She paused.

        “Yet you go on. What choice is there?”

        Three days after a fork of Mill Creek came rushing out of its banks and through Ms. Alvarez's Cincinnati-Dayton Road shop, signs of damage remained even as business was transacted as usual inside.

        Determined to move forward despite sore legs, Ms. Alvarez continued preparations for a weekend craft show near Cleveland, where she is displaying the jewelry she designs and makes in her basement workroom.

        But signs of Mother Nature's wrath and its aftermath lingered:

        • A hose from a sump pump hung over steps leading to her workroom and storage area.

        • The smell of disinfectant mingled with lingering traces of muck.

        • A recently restored cobblestone walk had sunk.

        • Topsoil from a vegetable garden and mulch from a flower garden is washed away.

        Her shop was among other stores, churches and homes along Cincinnati-Dayton Road hit by floodwaters. Ms. Alvarez hasn't calculated her losses because she is not sure how much inventory, decorations and stock can be salvaged.

Homes, companies damaged
Damage was so widespread in Butler County that West Chester Township trustees, county commissioners and Gov. Bob Taft declared a state of emergency. On Tuesday, officials from the Small Business Administration will tour the 25 worst-hit businesses or homes to see whether the area qualifies for assistance.

        More than 400 homes throughout the county were damaged, with most in Liberty and West Chester townships, said William Turner, director of Butler County's Emergency Management Agency.

        Half a dozen county roads were still closed Friday. The Butler County Engineer's Office reported more than $1 million in damage to roads and bridges. West Chester had an additional $250,000 in roads and culverts damage, said Mark Fitzgerald, the township's services director.

        “It's the worst I've ever seen,” said Mike Mays, West Chester Township's assistant fire chief. “This was not localized to one area. It was all over the community.”


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