Tuesday, July 24, 2001

Officials to survey storm damage

Financial help may be coming as cleanup continues

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Federal officials will tour storm-damaged areas of the Tristate today, and expect to make a decision on financial help by the end of the week.

        Meanwhile, residents and merchants continued to clean up after last week's record rainfall, which swamped homes, businesses and roads, leaving three people dead and millions of dollars in damage.

        Officials from the Small Business Administration will visit Butler County to in spect two businesses and 25 homes that sustained heavy damage, said Bill Turner, executive director of the county's emergency management agency.

        “When we receive any kind of (financial) help, locations for receiving it will be announced,” Mr. Turner said. “Right now, though, no personal assistance is available except through the Red Cross and other private groups.”

        The SBA also will visit Hamilton and Warren counties this week to inspect flood damage.

        “Our office has been in contact with the SBA,” said Jim Morrell, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Rob Portman, R- Terrace Park. “We should know by the end of the week about receiving assistance. We won't receive it from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) because the damage won't reach the threshold necessary” to get help from that agency.

        In Hamilton County, the Fairfax/Madison Place Joint Fire and Rescue Unit re sumed normal operations, Assistant Chief Terry Ramsey said.

        “We took a pretty good hit ourselves, losing $37,000 in contents on our lower level” at the headquarters on Murray Avenue in Madison Place. The department lost items such as exercise equipment and furniture, he said.

        “We've told the community that if additional help is needed, we're available,” he said.

        Micro Center Mall at In terstate 275 and Mosteller Road in Sharonville remained closed Monday. Workers installed new drywall and sanitized the floor, which was stripped of carpet after the store was inundated with about 8 inches of water and 2 inches of mud. Large fans blew and gigantic hoses sucked moist air from the store, which sells a variety of computer equipment and software.

        “It could've been worse,” said Mike Nootz, store general manager. “We could have had customers in here when this happened.”

        He expects the store to reopen Thursday.

        At nearby Kenworth of Cincinnati, a truck sales firm, employees have worked around the clock, said Jeff Gauger, controller. “Employees haven't quit. We owe a lot to their dedication,” Mr. Gauger said. The business was flooded with 30-40 inches of water. It will reopen Monday.

        In Clermont County on Monday, road crews continued to work on roads and bridges damaged by floods. Joe Uecker, administrator for the county engineer's office, said Miami Township appeared to have more damage than other communities in the county.

        “I'm not going to say it was hit the hardest, but the impact was great simply because the township has more people than most areas,” said Mr. Uecker, who is also a Miami Township trustee. “We have crews in the field with chain saws and bulldozers.”

        All of the county's roads are open, but bridges on River Road in Miami Township and Johnson Road in Wayne Township remain closed, and two others are restricted to one lane.

        In Butler County, much of the flooding occurred in West Chester Township, where trustees last week declared the township a natural disaster area. They said the township and county will send hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair roads, bridge and culverts.

        The county's chapter of the American Red Cross on Monday began moving into temporary flood quarters in Union Center Park in the township.

        “We're going to where the need is,” said Janet Kamp, director of emergency services. “There's not a question in my mind that we need help from people. We're looking at 300-some families affected in this area. Three homes were destroyed and many basements and homes were flooded. We'll assist until the people are all taken care of. This (Hamilton) chapter is covering the entire county.”

        Monetary donations may be sent to the American Red Cross, Hamilton Area Chapter, 112 N. Second St., Hamilton, OH 45011.

        Steve Kemme contributed to this report.


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