Thursday, March 13, 1997
Towns dig out;
relief funds grow

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Neediest Kids of All Flood Relief Fund
As the crest of the Ohio River tumbled toward the Mississippi, Tristate river towns continued to emerge Wednesday from the muck of last week's flooding. Several emergency efforts were shut down, flood refugees received more government money, and a Red Cross relief fund topped the $1.5 million mark.

But the Great Flood of 1997 continued to exact a toll on the region. Brown County officials continued their search for a 76-year-old Sardinia man missing since Saturday. And forecasters predicted rain, possibly heavy, will arrive in the Tristate today.

The Ohio was expected to crest Wednesday night just downstream from Evansville, Ind., in Old Shawneetown, Ill., at 55 feet - 22 feet over flood stage and the highest the river has climbed in the town since 1950. After spilling into the Mississippi at the rivers' confluence, the waters will likely cause flooding from Illinois to Louisiana.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency continued to give out financial help for rent or repairs. As of late Tuesday night, Ohio residents had filed 5,764 applications for aid, and officials had sent out 640 checks worth $1,078,294.

In Kentucky, almost 12,000 had registered for help, and the government's nearly 1,100 checks totaled about $1.5 million. Indiana residents had filed 1,262 applications for assistance, and the 60 checks mailed out there were worth $69,820.80.

Help provided by the National Guard was being phased out. The Guard completed its duties in Cincinnati Wednesday, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was preparing to take over the Guard's duties in Falmouth.

Other emergency measures ended as well. The Clermont County Emergency Operations Center, a nerve center set up for flood response, closed Wednesday - a day after the American Red Cross shut its Brown County shelter in Ripley. Of the 19 shelters opened during the floods by the Red Cross, only eight remained active Wednesday.

In other developments:

In what is believed to be the first arrests connected to the flooding, Covington police charged two Bellevue men Tuesday with criminal trespassing.

Officer Bill Schilling was on duty patrolling the flooded Shady Shores trailer park when he saw Jeff Rardin, 34, and Joseph A. Gramer, 35, pull into the area in a pickup truck about 1:45 p.m. The area remains off-limits to all without the proper identification, Covington officials said.

Gov. George Voinovich wore a Reds baseball cap as he and James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, toured the flood-damaged areas towns of Ripley and Manchester in Adams County.

In Brown County, authorities have had no luck in finding a 76- year-old Sardinia man who disappeared near Aberdeen on Saturday afternoon. The river's current remains too swift for divers to search the waters for Russell Malblanc, 76, said Brown County Sheriff's Det. John Fetters.

Last seen Saturday

He was last seen Saturday morning, and his empty Ford was found Saturday parked along U.S. 52, between Ripley and Sardinia, Det. Fetters said.

Phone service was restored to nearly all areas.

In Ohio, 13 water utilities still have boil-water advisories in effect. In Kentucky, 33 water systems have boil-water advisories, down from 37 on Monday. People with private wells also have been advised to boil water.

About 300 people from Falmouth's business community attended a meeting to discuss the town's future. In a show of hands, about 40 said they would relocate because of the damage, while 20 said they would stay if they received financial assistance.

Cincinnati officials said 95 businesses had suffered moderate to severe damage. Affected businesses that have not contacted the city are asked to call 352-3950.

Clothes, food, cleaning supplies and personal care products continued to arrive in Patriot, Ind., by truck Wednesday.

The FreeStore/FoodBank in Cincinnati sent a load of supplies in a semi donated by Aurora Caskets. A radio station about 100 miles away in Connersville, Ind. collected a semi full of supplies Tuesday and delivered it Wednesday.

About 10 employees of the Grand Victoria Casino & Resort in Rising Sun helped residents clean up.

A fund-raiser on Fountain Square raised $42,249 for flood relief efforts. Hundreds of lunchtime revelers listened to music and munched on chilli dogs, hamburgers and barbecue sandwiches at Jacor Communications' Flood the Square event.

That money was heaped into a relief fund already burgeoning with corporate contributions and money from foundations, special events and the public. Total raised thus far for Tristate flood victims: $1,569,696, a Red Cross official said Wednesday night.

Restaurants supply food

Eight restaurants supplied food, with proceeds going to the American Red Cross. Pat Ettensohn, chief executive officer of the local chapter of the American Red Cross, said they expect their expenses for 1997 flood relief to be about $3 million.

The National Weather Service said there was a 50 percent chance of rain in the Tristate this afternoon, increasing to 90 percent by nighttime.

Lisa Donovan, Allen Howard, Beth Menge, Jane Prendergast, Cindy Schroeder and Andrea Tortora contributed to this report.