Monday, March 10, 1997
River's retreat slows
Cleanup continues in rain

BY HOWARD WILKINSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Sunday's drenching rain in the flood-ravaged Ohio River valley may have been a grim reminder of last week's deluge for many Tristate victims, but it did little to slow the area's comeback.

The National Weather Service in Wilmington reported rainfall totals Sunday of a half-inch to an inch in the flood regions.

That's a scant amount compared to the 10, 12 and even 15 inches some Tristate communities received in 48 hours last weekend, causing the Ohio River to overflow and create the worst flood in 33 years.

Communities that were just beginning to assess the damage and begin the long process of cleaning up had braced for the possibility of losing ground in their battle when they heard the forecast Sunday.

But, as it turned out, the new rainfall didn't matter much.

''When the riverbeds are as swollen as they are now, that much rain is not going to have an effect,'' said meteorologist Steve Rowley of the National Weather Service.

By 7 p.m. Sunday, the Ohio River in Cincinnati had dropped to 55.5 feet from a high of 64.7 feet on Wednesday. But the river is taking its time getting back in its banks. Forecasters predict it will not drop to its 52-foot flood stage at Cincinnati until at least 7 a.m. Wednesday.

In the Tristate, flooded-out home and business owners and local governments faced the rain Sunday and continued the massive task of trying to get life back to normal.

In Ohio, where five people died in the flooding, the assessment was still grim, but getting better:

  • At least 1,128 customers of Cincinnati Gas & Electric Co. were still without gas Sunday and another 800 had no electricity. Statewide, at least 1,150 homes remain without gas and 1,800 are without electricity. Utility companies up and down the Ohio hoped to have service restored to many of them by this morning.

  • The Ohio Department of Transportation reported Sunday that portions of at least 12 state highways remained closed Sunday in Hamilton, Clermont, Adams, Brown, Scioto and Lawrence counties.

  • Emergency officials requested Highland County be given federal disaster status. Sixteen Ohio counties have that status.

    The state's Emergency Management Operations center has estimated total damage to southern Ohio communities at $155 million and officials warned it would ultimately rise.

  • In Kentucky the death toll climbed to 19 with the discovery of another body in Falmouth Sunday. Kentucky State Police identified the victim as Jerry Beyersdoerfer, 27. Forty-four counties have been declared federal disaster areas.

  • In Falmouth, the town hit the hardest, five emergency shelters were consolidated into one at Pendleton County High School.

  • A spokesman for Union Light, Heat & Power Co. said electricity had been restored by Sunday to about 200 of 800 homes in Campbell, Kenton and Pendleton counties.

  • In Indiana, 1,400 homes were damaged, said Alden Taylor, public information officer for the Indiana State Emergency Management Agency.

    In Dearborn County, 85 mobile homes, apartments and homes were flooded, along with 70 businesses. In Switzerland County, 50 percent of the homes in Florence were flooded, 70 percent in Patriot. In Ohio County, 100 people were forced from their homes.

    In Falmouth, there was talk of building a new town on higher ground.

    At the Fancy Floral Fashions and Gifts shop there, owners Joyce and George Campbell were at their store clearing out dead plants and saving what wicker baskets they could.

    ''We're trying to salvage what we can, but we won't be back,'' Mrs. Campbell said. ''No. No way.''

    In Cincinnati, city workers continued cleanup in riverfront neighborhoods early Sunday and worked until sundown, said Paul Myers, assistant director of the buildings department.

    City building inspectors worked through the rain to check about 1,400 buildings in the East End, Sayler Park, and California neighborhoods, as well as along Pete Rose Way downtown.

    City and utility company crews joined business owners in scraping mud and hauling wet debris from businesses along Pete Rose Way.

    In the East End, the hardest-hit of the Cincinnati neighborhoods, Ben Woodall of North Avenue said he doesn't remember the 1964 flood, when the river crested at 66 feet, as being as bad as this. He was 7 years old and living with his parents in the same house where he lives now.

    ''My dad told us we had to get out because the water was rising, but I don't remember losing all the things I have lost this time,'' he said.

    In California, another Cincinnati riverfront neighborhood prone to spring flooding, many homes, particularly along Panama Avenue, were still under water Sunday afternoon.

    Fifteen miles upriver from Cincinnati, the American Red Cross kept its shelter at New Richmond High School open, despite the fact that the waters had receded and most people had left the shelter.

    Ninety-eight people slept at the high school Saturday night, down from more than 200 housed there since the flood.

    ''That number could go up or down,'' said Jeff Via, shelter manager.

    People may need to return to the shelter because they can't use their damaged homes, he said.

    Along the river in western Hamilton County, life in communities like Addyston was also showing signs of returning to normal. Meredith Hitchens Elementary in Addyston will be open today after volunteers and staff worked around the clock to move materials upstairs from basement classrooms.

    The lower level will be off-limits to children and staff, said Principal Don Larrick.

    Reporters Leah Beth Ward, Steve Kemme, Allen Howard, Jeff McKinney, John Eckberg, Lucy May, Andrea Tortora, Christine Wolff and Kathleen Hillenmeyer contributed to this report. B/b>

    FLOOD STORIES
    FLOOD PHOTOS

Flood of '97
at a glance

KENTUCKY

Deaths: 19

Disaster areas: 44 counties

Affected: More than 75,000 homes and businesses

Damage estimate: $250 million

OHIO

Deaths:Five

Disaster areas: 28 counties

Affected: 5,639 homes and businesses. At least 1,128 Cincinnati Gas & Electric Co. customers are without gas; 800 have no electricity.

Damage estimate: $155 million

INDIANA

Deaths: None reported

Disaster area: 13 counties

Affected: At least 1,500 people evacuated; 646 people registered for state and federal aid.

Damage amount: No estimate made.


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Entire contents Copyright (c) 1997 by The Cincinnati Enquirer, a Gannett Co. Inc. newspaper.