Wednesday, March 5, 1997
Everyday life
stays on course

Bank, pharmacy set up shop
in school rooms

BY SHEILA McLAUGHLIN and CHRISTINE WOLFF
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Chased out of their homes and businesses by flooding, residents in New Richmond and surrounding river towns were struggling Tuesday to bring back some normalcy to their lives.

The village's hilltop schools - with no classes again Tuesday - were hubs of activity for commerce and relief efforts.

The music room at New Richmond Elementary School became a makeshift branch of New Richmond National Bank, which was flooded out of its downtown location, then its branch in the Rivertown IGA on U.S. 52.

Residents staying at the American Red Cross shelter at the high school needed access to their money, and manager Lee Ann Wildey and a colleague were doing their best to accommodate Tuesday.

The village post office and Berry Pharmacy also had set up shop on the school campus.

About 1,200 families were without mail delivery in the town of 2,500 residents, said Postmaster Jim Lamsaw. ''We're not delivering where the water is. They're coming here to get it.'' he said

Business was brisk at the pharmacy, where boxes of pills and other items filled one-third of the small room. ''A lot of people had to leave their medicines behind. They just had to get out,'' pharmacy technician Kathy Barnhart said.

Teachers and staff with the New Richmond Exempted Village School District will be paid this week despite a water-blocked administrative office on flooded Market Street - thanks to a check-writing machine delivered by fishing boat.

Sharon Stark, the district's transportation coordinator, carried out the breadbox-sized machine, which was stashed inside a plastic trash can. Superintendent Larry Grooms, in suit, tie and work boots, rescued a box full of papers off his desk and other items collected from his staff's desks.

''We've got to do payroll,'' he said, moving about the third-floor administrative offices.

River water about 5 feet deep filled the street and covered the lower steps leading to the administrative offices, housed in the castlelike former New Richmond Public School building - built in 1915 and boasting a bronze high-water mark halfway up the first-floor windows from the 1937 flood.

About 10 inches of water seeped into the building's ground floor, swamping the newly renovated gymnasium/auditorium and threatening public library books which are housed in the same building.

More than 132 displaced residents from Neville, Moscow and New Richmond were camped out at the Red Cross shelter at New Richmond High School by Tuesday afternoon. There, food, clothing, toiletries, counseling and even massages were available.

All 200 residents in Neville were evacuated earlier this week, and every road into the town was cut off by water Tuesday. About half of Moscow's roughly 300 residents had moved to higher ground, rescue officials said. In Moscow, an old elementary school became a storage center for residents' belongings, said Vince Bee, assistant chief of the Washington Township Fire Department.

About 85 percent of New Richmond's residents were forced out of their homes by flooding, said Village Administrator David Kennedy.

''In Clermont County, you have a lot of second- and third-generation families, so most are staying with relatives,'' he said of the low numbers at the shelter.

Firefighters, rescue workers and police from all over Hamilton, Clermont and Brown counties, and even as far away as Franklin County (Columbus) have converged on New Richmond offering equipment and staff, said 2nd Lt. Mark Wolf of the New Richmond Fire Department.

''We've had a tremendous amount of help offered, and we've had to turn it away. We've got so many people on standby, we don't have enough jobs,'' he said.

FLOOD STORIES
FLOOD PHOTOS