Wednesday, March 5, 1997
Evacuees wait
to return home

Apparent fuel leak
causes brief scare

The Cincinnati Enquirer

In Kenton and Campbell counties Tuesday, people affected by the record flooding were impatiently waiting for the Ohio River to return to its banks so they could begin reclaiming their homes.

''I'm trying not to worry about (the flooding), because I know whatever's going to happen is going to happen,'' said flood victim Donna Denny, who fled her home in Silver Grove and sought shelter in the old Spring-Crestview Volunteer Fire Department with her 8-year-old son, Tracy.

Officials estimated Tuesday that more than 2,300 residents have been evacuated from flooded areas in the two counties - about 1,300 in Campbell; 1,000 in Kenton. That number, revised downward from Monday, is difficult to confirm because many are avoiding shelters and staying with friends and relatives.

By Tuesday, the flood had turned the Campbell County town of California into a watery ghost town, with all public areas and most yards covered by several feet of water.

Mike Young, one of three property owners who stayed behind, estimated that every residence ''has from 2 inches to 4 feet of water in it, depending on how high off the ground it is.''

''My great-grandfather built my house in 1938, the year after the '37 flood, so he got a little wise to flooding,'' said Mr. Young, who said his own home at the corner of Union and Jefferson streets had a flooded basement, but no other damage.

Many of the town's 160 residents who fled in haste have returned by boat to collect their belongings.

Evacuations were pretty much over by nightfall Monday in Kenton County, ending at more than 1,000 people forced from their homes.

A more specific number was not expected until possibly after the water begins to recede, said Kenton County Police Detective Darrin Gilvin, spokesman for the Kenton County Disaster and Emergency Services office.

In Bromley on Tuesday, authorities had a brief scare in the rising muddy waters when what they presumed to be fuel oil began coming out of a pipe outside the former Tamsui restaurant. Hazardous materials officials from Cincinnati were called in to help because of the concern that the substance could ignite. It did not.

The flooding continued a painful week for one family.

Leroy Hall of Pensacola, Fla., and Mike Starr of Orlando, Fla., returned to Bromley to bury a relative, Billy Ray Hickman, on Saturday. Family members planned to clear out the Pike Street home soon, but not this soon.

Five feet of water was in the basement Monday afternoon as the river that started the day a block away creeped to the edge of the home. But Tuesday, much of Pike Street was under water.

''I'm used to hurricanes,'' Mr. Starr said, ''but not the damn floods, man.''

Ludlow Police Chief Tom Collins organized sandbagging efforts for the sides of Sleepy Hollow Road in order to keep it - the only decent route in and out of the city - open.

''I hope to God we don't need it,'' he said, ''but we're going to be ready.''