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Gore Carries Promises of Federal Help to Flooded Towns

Disaster: Relief efforts will seek to relocate rather than simply to rebuild ravaged homes and areas.

March 09, 1997| From Times Wire Services

LEBANON JUNCTION, Ky. — Vice President Al Gore waded into this flooded Kentucky town Saturday and promised residents the federal government will help them get back on their feet after the worst flooding in three decades.

Lebanon Junction, about 25 miles south of Louisville, was one of several towns near the flooding Ohio River or its tributaries visited by Gore. The vice president promised federal aid to victims including assistance geared to permanently relocating residents out of flood areas.

"You have neighbors and friends in Kentucky along with the federal government, which is representing the American people, who are going to pitch in every way they can," Gore told some of the town's nearly 2,000 residents.

Initial estimates put flood damage in worst-hit Ohio and Kentucky collectively at $390 million, and scores of riverside Indiana communities were also devastated.

While Gore spoke, water from the nearby Salt River covered roads and lapped at the second floor of homes. Fifty homes were destroyed in Lebanon Junction and 141 homes and businesses damaged, local officials said.

"We're devastated. It's heartbreaking. This place has been my home for half my life. Our city is torn to pieces," said Vicki Adams, who turned out to see the vice president.

In Kentucky, 18 people have died and 44 counties have been declared federal disaster areas. Officials estimate at least $250 million in damages and more than 75,000 homes damaged. In Ohio, where 16 counties have been declared disaster areas, five people have been killed and at least 5,639 homes have been damaged.

Sixteen counties in West Virginia, where three people have died, have been declared disasters. No damage estimate has been made. All 13 Indiana counties along the Ohio River have been declared disasters. In Tennessee, six people have died in floods and tornadoes, and seven counties have been declared disasters.

As flood waters receded in many areas along the river and its tributaries in the three states, weather forecasts called for an inch or more of rain this weekend in the soaked region and additional rainfall next week.

"We see a continuation of the wet period for at least seven days," said Kevin Roth, a Weather Services Corp. meteorologist. "It won't help (the flooded areas)."

In Reed, Ky., National Guard troops saved a critical emergency transmission tower by surrounding it with 15,000 sand bags late Friday.

A woman in hard-hit Falmouth, Ky., where the Licking River burst from its banks during last weekend's deluge of a foot of rain, expressed optimism even as she surveyed the wreckage of her three-bedroom home.

"We are so blessed," Juanita Hughes said. "At least we still have a house we can fix. At the other end of this block, the houses are gone."

Falmouth residents returned to find homes dislodged from foundations and tossed like toy boats in a muddy bathtub.

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