Sunday, July 29, 2001

After 11 days, flood cleanup rages

By Emily Biuso
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FAIRFAX — There are rugs to clean, flooring to install and walls to restore, but Luke Phourest is working on a small shard of glass.

        Wearing boxer shorts and a T-shirt, Mr. Phourest stands in his driveway, using brown twine to tie the glass so it will hang properly for his neighbor, Gail Baer. She broke a mirror while trying to salvage furniture in her flood-damaged home, and Mr. Phourest tells her to suspend the glass in her window so that bad luck will be reflected away.

        The last thing these folks need is more bad luck.

[photo] Luke Phourest of Fairfax squeegees flood water from an antique Persian rug in front of his home on Warren Avenue.
(Brandi Stafford photos)
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        Though it was more than a week ago that Little Duck Creek rose and spilled into their homes, those hit hardest by the flood still are recovering.

        And they have a long way to go.

        “Welcome to my life,” Mr. Phourest says, surveying his drive way strewn with Oriental rugs, card tables, a hat and two bottles of odor eliminator.

        “I haven't been in clothes since last week. I've only left twice since the flood. I've felt like a mud puppy for days.”

        Mr. Phourest is a technician at Ethicon Endo-Surgery in Blue Ash, a medical device company, and hasn't been to work since the flood. He has spent every day from 8 a.m. to midnight, he says, working to restore his home.

        He estimates it would take $30,000 to make his home livable again. He lost carpeting, electricity, furniture and appliances.

        A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project manager told Fairfax village officials Friday that removing homes from the flood plain may be the best way to avoid future losses.

[photo] Gail Baer takes a broken mirror wrapped with rope by neighbor Luke Phourest, who says the mirror will reflect bad luck associated with breaking it.
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        During last week's flood, a man and his daughter drowned in their basement on Simpson Avenue, only a block away from Mr. Phourest.

        And the rain won't stay away. On Saturday, a flash flood warning was issued for the Cincinnati area, and more rain is expected today.

        Mr. Phourest, who's lived here for six years, says if the government offered to buy his house and cover his mortgage, he would sell.

        “I don't want to do this again. This has been a year out of my life in a week,” he says. He doesn't know where he'd go, only that he would move to higher ground.

        Until he hears from the government or his insurance agent, he continues to clean. But he's exhausted from the work.

        On Saturday, Mr. Phourest erected a shrine of sorts in his front yard. He planted a white flag in the ground and surrounded it with frog figurines.

        “That was my comic relief. I surrender.”

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