BY STEVE KEMME
The Cincinnati Enquirer
BUTLER, Ky. - Two weeks ago, Rich and Pat Danehe bought a two-story house on Mill Street and then invested thousands of dollars to remodel it.
They planned to move into their house this week and looked forward to sitting on their back deck this spring and watching the Licking River flow past.
But last weekend's flood destroyed those plans. On Sunday, water covered all but the top half of the roof.
On Thursday, wearing high boots, the Danehes tried to shovel and sweep out 2 inches of mud and muck covering the floors.
''We're going to have to gut out the inside of the house,'' Mrs. Danehe said. ''We looked for a house for two years, and we lost it in two weeks.''
With the flood water having receded from Butler's streets, this Pendleton County town of 1,000 residents began its recovery Thursday.
Electricity was restored to the town late Thursday afternoon, enabling some people to move back into their homes. But Mayor Delbert Reid said it could be three weeks before water service resumes.
Backhoes and bulldozers cleared debris from streets, and residents and volunteer workers carried salvageable furniture and other belongings out of houses. They shoveled mud off floors, scrubbed walls and removed fallen pieces of ceiling and wall plaster.
Flood waters reached about half the town, but the most devastated area was Mill Street.
One house, its walls crumpled, stood about 30 yards from its foundation. The flood ripped up four trailer homes, sending one of them crashing into the side of a house.
A red Ford Tempo GL lay on its top, like a giant dead water bug, at the side of the road near the end of Butler's bridge.
Lisa Burgin sat crying on the concrete steps of what was left of her front porch. The porch and the foundation were all that remained of the one-story house she and her husband, Kurt, were renting.
Parts of the roof and the aluminum siding were scattered in nearby yards.
''Everything we worked for all our lives was in this house,'' said Mr. Burgin, taking a drag on a cigarette.
He and his wife and their two children are now staying with her sister in Covington. They had no flood insurance for their possessions.
Mrs. Burgin shrieked when a friend found a small metal box about 20 yards from the water's edge. The box contained the birth certificate and the footprints of the twin brother of her 4-year-old son, William. The twin was stillborn.
''That was the main thing she was looking for,'' said Mrs. Burgin's mother, Dolores Johnson, of Jackson, Ky.
She put her arm around her daughter, who held the box and wept in relief.
Shorty and Fran Gibson, who owned the house the Burgins rented, also lost another rental house in Butler that was swept away by the flood. They had no insurance on either house.
''We didn't ever think the river would get up that far,'' Mrs. Gibson said.