BY ANDREA TORTORA
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FALMOUTH - Disbelief is what relief feels like to the Pendleton County officials in charge of paring the list of persons missing in the Flood of '97.
Daunting at its creation, with more than 500 residents unaccounted for, the list is now void.
Everyone is accounted for, according to the American Red Cross, which last handled the tally.
Five people were found dead; the rest were located with family or friends within Pendleton and in other counties.
''I hate to say that, 'Yeah, I am surprised,' but I'm overjoyed that there were only five,'' said Craig Peoples, disaster emergency services director. ''I'm glad it's only five and not 500.''
When search-and-rescue teams were still sifting through debris for victims, Mr. Peoples and others went on record saying it was unrealistic to think only five people would be found dead.
In the early hours after the March 1 flooding, amateur radio operators started keeping a list of names of people that folks in shelters couldn't find.
The Red Cross then expanded the list, asking WIOK (107.5 FM) to read the names over the air in the hope that people who fled the county would hear their names and call in their whereabouts.
As time lapsed, the list started to dwindle. County officials printed the list in local newspapers, asking anyone who knew anything about people named to call the dispatch center.
The Kentucky State Police began creating their own, more specific, list of persons thought to be dead.
But no more victims were found after March 9.
Still not quite sure whether they should believe it, emergency officials now say evacuation efforts kept deaths low.
Mr. Peoples said he credits the fire and police departments with continuously doing evacuation calls. ''We did a heck of a job getting everybody out,'' Mr. Peoples said.
Police Chief Greg Reis said even though residents complained they weren't given enough warning, officials did all they could.
''I just can't believe we have not had more people killed,'' Chief Reis said. Last week he walked a mile along the Licking River's shore, doing a final search.
''I found tons of stuff from Cynthiana and just couldn't believe that people were able to make it out.''