Sunday, March 9, 1997
As mud squads start downtown,
kids museum pleads for help

The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Ohio River was receding and streets were drying, but life was far from normal along Cincinnati's riverfront Saturday.

The Ohio National Guard used heavy vehicles to remove muck from the 2,000 parking spaces near Cinergy Field, while city workers tried to restore electrical power to the streetlights along Pete Rose Way.

Cleanup crews worked quickly to remove the mud from flooded businesses, while hundreds dropped by to catch a glimpse of the damage.

Open for parade is goal

''We will be open (next) Sunday for the St. Patrick's Day parade,'' said Richard Kilbourn, manager of Flanagan's Landing, where floodwaters buckled the floor and workers were trying to pump out water.

''We'll have green beer. It will be a St. Patrick's Day Flood Fest.''

Farther west, Pete Rose Way was impassable, but inside Longworth Hall, a handful of volunteers worked late into the night at the Cincinnati Children's Museum to remove sludge.

''It's devastated,'' said Richard A. Sgritta, the museum's executive director. ''We need help. We need volunteers, donations to get the museum up and running.''

Mr. Sgritta guessed it will cost at least $200,000 to replace the carpets, sheet rock and custom-made exhibit areas, such as ''Baby Beach'' and ''Infant Aisle.''

He could not estimate an opening date, but he said the two-year- old non-profit museum would reopen before its scheduled 1998 move to the Museum Center at Union Terminal.

Joe Degaro, whose family has owned the M. Degaro Co. for 67 years, was watching as workers used squeegees to remove muck from the floor of the produce warehouse.

The warehouse is about 5 feet off the ground, and only about 6 inches of water seeped onto its floors. Some onions and potatoes were kept dry by placing them on crates, but Mr. Degaro said ''99 percent of our stuff is out of here.''

'Just not normal'

He said his family planned to open Monday. He said the flood was bad, ''but the flood in 1964 was worse than this.''

While the river had receded, Saturday was still a day for many to get their first glimpse of the damage. Sam Blankemeyer, a 31-year-old Northside man who had been busy working during the week, brought a camera.

''I had film laying around, and I figured I better use it,'' he said. ''This is a chance to see something that's just not normal.''

Enquirer reporter Perry Brothers contributed to this story.