Thursday, March 6, 1997
Relief money promised
Extent of disaster
only now unfolding

The Cincinnati Enquirer

FALMOUTH, Ky. - Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton, who toured this ravaged community Wednesday, turns his attention today to Northern Kentucky.

Mr. Patton will meet this morning with local and federal officials at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport about getting federal disaster funding for the northern counties.

On Wednesday, Mr. Patton added 15 counties to the state request for disaster relief - including Kenton, Campbell and Owen - bringing the total to 24 counties.

''We will be in the second tier of counties that will be included simply because we were not able to give them any dollar figures,'' said Kenton County Judge-executive Clyde Middleton. ''Those damage costs are expected to be given to the Federal Emergency Management Administration at the meeting.

''It's going to be, I would say, in the millions,'' Mr. Middleton said. ''Everything (road) that's near the river in Kenton County has been cut off someplace.''

Mr. Patton, his wife, Judi, and several state officials spent much of Wednesday afternoon touring the wet, muddy streets of Falmouth and trying to comfort some of the 80 or so displaced residents, including dozens of children, who are living at the makeshift shelter/relief station/National Guard command center at Pendleton County High School.

Mr. Patton called the flooding both here and across the state ''about the worst I've ever seen. I wish I could say the worst is over, but I'm not sure it is.''

Now that the Licking River has subsided, authorities and residents are fearful of what they'll find as they return to what less than a week ago was the bustling Pendleton County seat.

National Guardsmen, aided by tracking dogs, began a house-to-house search Wednesday in Falmouth that was expected to continue today.

Guard commanding officer Col. Bruce Pieratt anticipated his troops would find more bodies. Four have already been recovered from homes in Falmouth.

''The river came up so fast we're afraid some people just couldn't get out,'' he said.

Reinforcements of about 75 will join the 110 guardsmen already here to start the cleanup today in Falmouth.

Mr. Patton tried to assure the weary residents packed into the high school's cafeteria that state and federal officials will do all they can ''to help you get your lives back in order.''

Many have been at the school since Sunday night, when the flooding hit.

Kim Cowans and her five children - a 3-year-old and two sets of twins ages 2 and 2 months - were living in an apartment in Butler, a community north of Falmouth that also flooded. For now, they live in the gym at Pendleton County High School.

''The people here have been great,'' she said as 2-year-old Dylan squirmed across her chest. ''They've given us everything we need - clothes, food, diapers, baby formula.

''And the kids love it. They think it's neat to stay here and they can run around in the gym. But I can't sleep at night because I'm worried the kids are going to get up and start wandering around.''

The gym was lined with blanket-covered cots where the displaced have been spending the night. On Wednesday afternoon, several children played with donated toys under one hoop while a group of high-school-age boys shot baskets at the other end of the gym.

In the cafeteria, groceries, sandwiches, doughnuts, coffee and personal hygiene items donated by area companies and residents were available. The halls were lined with boxes of donated clothes and toys.

The American Red Cross had nurses on site to administer medicine to children suffering from colds, fevers or the flu.

In one corner of the school, Cincinnati Bell set up about 100 phones through an emergency hook-up so the refugees could call relatives, friends and employers. Phones are still out in the area, but service could be returned as early as today, said Bell spokesman Erik Kirkhorn.

In the parking lot, Fifth Third Bank set up a mobile automatic teller machine so people could get cash. All the banks, as well as every other business in Falmouth, were closed.

''The morale is pretty high,'' said Jennifer Rumpke of the American Red Cross, which set up the shelter. ''I think people understand they're all in this together so they're trying to make the best of it.

''But on the same hand, everybody is anxious to get out of here and get back home.''