Sunday, March 16, 1997
Displaced watch bulldozer
finish what flood began

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Two weeks after the waters started rising, houses started coming down this weekend as flood-weary residents grappled with whether to relocate or rebuild.

The Tristate's hardest-hit flood victims, with a lot of tears, hugs and hand-holding, spent Saturday watching bulldozers demolish their unsalvageable homes.

Where homes weren't declared a hazard, residents continued the arduous task of ripping out mildewed walls, wiping off muddied porches and watching the pain of neighbors realizing their losses.

''Twenty years of my life down the drain,'' said Kathy Weise, 46, as she watched workers cart off the remains of her East End home. ''We had so much money and plans. Now we don't have either.''

East Enders worry they'll face the same fate as other river towns, such as Neville, which may not be rebuilt in the flood plain.

''Five generations grew up here - you don't leave that behind,'' said Ruth Coon, who plans to relocate to her East End riverside lot.

While many share her loyalty, they may have no choice.

''I don't want to leave, but I might have to,'' Paul Seminatore said. ''I had a guy here estimate it'll cost me $45,000 to rebuild. When he heard I had no flood insurance, he took off running.''

݂In Falmouth, Ky., exactly two weeks after the Licking River swallowed most of the town, National Guardsmen ran bulldozers through the business district Saturday, scooping up heaps of debris.

It looked like a ghost town as Mayor Max Goldberg, 83 - up and around after being hospitalized last week with an irregular heart
rhythm - watched.

More than a dozen volunteers from Polk, Pa., got a look at the damage when they arrived Saturday with two semis and three pickups filled with donations.

''No picture I take home can tell you what I've seen,'' said organizer Paul Adams, 51, an ambulance captain in Polk. ''It's total devastation. I went through Vietnam and I never saw nothing like that.''

݂Flood victims spilled into Federal Emergency Management Agency relief centers Saturday. In the 93 eligible counties in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, FEMA has taken 23,319 applications and has issued more than $10.4 million in temporary housing checks.

Dick and Ollie Phillips of Falmouth expect to get $10,000 - the maximum in immediate emergency assistance from FEMA. They walked FEMA inspector Richard Coe through every room Saturday, explaining what the place - now down to studs - was supposed to look like.

The money will help cover the cost of leveling their home and relocating. Mrs. Phillips, rescued by boat two weeks ago, refuses to stay.

݂About 50 Xavier University students and countless teen-agers spent Saturday in rubber gloves and boots doing odd jobs from the East End to New Richmond.

''As poor as people think college students are, we still have more than these people, who now have nothing,'' said Danielle Staudt, 20, a Xavier junior from Toledo.

݂The Red Cross got help Saturday from 2,000 Amway distributors meeting in Cincinnati. Bob Covino of Amway asked each distributor to bring at least one liter of cleaning product. They did that - and more. Retail value: $8,000 to $10,000.

݂In California, Jim Constable, a Springfield Township electrician, stopped by Olga Williams' soggy
house to offer a refrigerator, sleeper sofa and air conditioners.

''I inspected your house last weekend, remember?'' he told her, as relief workers pried sodden drywalls off the 74-year-old woman's house. ''I knew you'd probably be able to use this stuff.''

She smiled as she accepted his phone number. ''I just feel completely and utterly drained,'' she said. ''I don't know what I'd do without this help.''

݂In Adams County, where the flood destroyed 500 homes, this weekend's cold forced victims out of a shelter in an unheated armory.

''We'll be living with the effects of this for years,'' said Mary Jane Campbell, 37, director of the county's department of human services. ''In Appalachia, we're sometimes called fatalists - what was meant to be will be - but I think that's what's helping us cope with this.''