Wednesday, March 5, 1997
Residents return
to devastation

The Cincinnati Enquirer

FALMOUTH - His daughter didn't want him to go inside, but Virgil Rarrieck Sr. had to: his life was inside.

What he found through the door of his home on East Shelby Street was like a slap in the face.

The living room furniture was in the kitchen. Three inches of mud covered the floor - littered with chairs, blankets, an overturned kitchen table and refrigerator.

A water line 5 feet up the buckled wall stopped just below a pendulum clock.

''When my wife sees this, she'll go nuts. She'll go nuts,'' said Mr. Rarrieck, 61, choking back tears.

The couple was living in the same house during the 1964 flood when the Licking River reached 47 feet. The Rarriecks didn't get any water in their home that time - a disaster from which the city took three years to rebuild.

Residents living in Falmouth's flooded east side had their first chance to enter their homes Tuesday as the Licking River's waters dropped 5 feet, taking the shock of the tragedy with it and leaving behind the cruel reality of inches of mud and the stench of a sewer.

In a search of homes Tuesday morning, emergency workers found the first fatality: an elderly woman left in her home. Authorities would not release details.

And though parts of the Pendleton County city were accessible for the first time since Sunday, mobility was almost at a standstill.

Kentucky National Guard troops sealed off all roads leading into the center of town and turned away residents who lived there.

Security will tighten as the water gets lower. The National Guard patrolled downtown in boats and Hummers to prevent looting. The Guard stopped one canoe Monday night taking property from a business.

A curfew began Tuesday, and police say any residents found outside after dark will be arrested.

Mr. Rarrieck, his son, Virgil Jr., his daughter and son-in-law said they'd be outside keeping watch over their homes.

''We watched the water rise up like when Moses parted the Red Sea,'' Virgil Rarrieck Jr., 33, said as he and Glen Nowlin, 43, hauled their ruined possessions out of their home on East Shelby and onto their porch.

Mr. Nowlin said he doesn't know what to do. Despite the shock of seeing the home he just remodeled destroyed, he's worried about his mother in Arkansas, which has been beset by tornadoes.

''It's hard to keep from crying,'' Mr. Nowlin said.

Across the street, Junior Platt, 35, Mr. Rarrieck's brother-in-law, stood 10 feet from his home. He had a fishing boat ready to take him over. But, because the water had not yet receded from the house, police told him that if he tried they would arrest him.

''It's frustrating being this close to my house and I can't get in,'' Mr. Platt said.

But there's plenty of time. The pendulum clock in Mr. Rarrieck's house can tell you that: it's still ticking, keeping track of the thousands of hours of clean up to come.