Sunday, March 9, 1997
General store stays open
to serve town

Business has been brisk at the Mentor Mall, a general store in Mentor on Ky. 8 in eastern Campbell County that escaped the high water and stayed open while much of the town was battling the flood.

''People couldn't get out of the area and a lot of them just stayed, so they came here even more than usual,'' said manager Fay Campbell.

The Ohio River was back in its banks Saturday afternoon and people in this Campbell County town of about 170 were starting to clean out the homes that had been hit by flooding, said resident Tre Wilson.

''People are just glad the sun's out today and the river is down.''

Smelly, wet and musty carpeting, sofas and chairs were piled high in front of Ray Boshert's home in California. Inside the floors were crumbling and buckling, the power was off and 18 inches of water stood in the basement.

Just across the railroad tracks that run next to Mr. Boshert's home, water still surrounded most of the homes in this Campbell County city of about 200. Firefighters from the Eastern Campbell and Highland Heights fire departments hosed the mud off the streets where the river had receded and started helping some residents pump water from their basements.

''This is the first day most people have been able to get to their homes,'' Mr. Boshert said. ''What a mess, huh? What are we going to do?''

Mr. Boshert's brother, Tony, who was helping him clean up, was listening to the University of Kentucky basketball game on a battery-operated radio resting on the front porch.

''The Kentucky game must go on,'' Tony Boshert laughed.

The floor at Pelle's Tavern in Silver Grove is just about destroyed. The basement is still full of water. And there's no power. But owner Jerry Pelle says ''that if I can get the electricity on, I'll be open by Monday.''

That might sound optimistic, but already by Saturday afternoon, just a few hours after seeing his bar and neighboring tax business for the first time since the flooding began, Mr. Pelle and several friends, relatives and employees had the place ''looking a lot better than it was.''

''We'll get it up and running. This place has been in the family for 20 years. This won't get us down.''

While the water had fallen back to the Ohio River, the middle of Silver Grove, a Campbell County town of about 1,100, looked like a lake from backwater flooding. And garbage, debris and uprooted trees were piled high in front of many of the towns flooded homes.

Last November, Charles and Sheila Jones of Ludlow reopened their Oak Street banquet and bingo hall after a 1994 fire kept their business closed for two years.

On Saturday, they surveyed the damage in the four-month old building and prepared to ''get to work cleaning it up,'' Mr. Jones said.

''We had water up to the windows and the basement was completely flooded,'' Mrs. Jones said as she toted a box of Clorox into the damp building.

Much of this Kenton County city of about 4,700 was beginning to dry out Saturday, but the end of Lagoon Street was a pool of 3-inch deep water that was filling the air with a foul stench.

Streets that had been under water were heavy with wet and dry mud, debris and large puddles of water.

With most of the contents of her basement wet and scattered across her front lawn and her furnace probably ruined, Karen Denham of Bromley still counted herself among the lucky.

''All that got hit at our house was the basement, and I didn't have anything too valuable down there, just some Christmas decorations and stuff like that,'' Mrs. Denham said as she hosed off a strand of Christmas tree lights.

Like people in other towns along the river, residents of this Kenton County town of about 1,200 began returning to their homes Saturday morning.

Firefighters were busy pumping water out of homes while National Guardsmen driving fatigue-colored vehicles shuttled residents to and from their homes since little traffic was allowed on the mud-covered streets.

''This will be a hard day for a lot of people,'' Mrs. Denham said. ''They'll be coming home to places they won't even recognize. It's sad, isn't it?''

Kentucky stats: 18 people dead. 44 counties declared federal disaster area. Ohio River dropped half a foot at Louisville to 38.3 feet, still 16 feet above flood stage. At least $250 million in damages and 75,000 homes damaged.

- Reported by Patrick Crowley