BY CHRISTINE WOLFF
The Cincinnati Enquirer
OHIO TOWNSHIP - For Sharon and David Elam, a hilltop home brings peace.
They have lived there since March, when they left the mud-soaked, Ohio River-ravaged house on New Richmond's Center Street - about four blocks from the river and deep in the village's flood plain.
For five days in March, the Flood of '97 swirled brown river water higher than the kitchen counters in the house the Elams had rented for nine years. The family's decision came quickly: They were moving - to the hills.
Six months later, the used mobile home they bought for $500 in March probably wouldn't be recognized by its former owner, thanks to Mr. Elam's gift for remodeling. The lot in Hilltop Estates Mobile Home Park on Ohio 132 - about 3 miles from the old house - now is ''nice and homey,'' and worth the effort to move, Mrs. Elam said.
They live there with daughters Jennifer, 15, and Jodie, 13, who still attend classes in New Richmond Exempted Village School District. Their eldest, Debra Hedrick, 22, who is expecting the Elams' second grandchild this month, has moved back to her New Richmond apartment a few blocks from the river.
''I don't want to go through a flood again,'' said Mrs. Elam, 39. ''The children and I miss being so close to everything in town. After nine years in one spot, it's hard to move away.''
Inside the three-bedroom, white-and-blue mobile home, just about everything is new - from the bedroom and bathroom walls, to light fixtures, water heater, washer and dryer, plumbing and appliances to flooring, carpeting, ceiling fans and air-conditioning units. There's a new tile entryway at the front door and a trampoline outside for the kids.
''We're happy with the decision. Without the flood, we'd still be stuck in that rut. The Lord works in mysterious ways,'' said Mr. Elam, 42.
OUT OF DEEP WATER
COUPLE FOCUSES ON NEW LIFE
The Flood of '97
140 COLOR PHOTOS