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Published: Monday, 1/10/2005

Ohio River flooding is a fact of life for town


POMEROY, Ohio - Once again, residents of this storied southeastern Ohio community strapped on their boots and batted their brooms at the unwanted water that paid yet another visit to their rivertown this weekend.

With tall boots covering her knees, Bobbie Karr worked tirelessly yesterday afternoon to get rid of nearly a half-foot of water covering the carpeting of Hartwell House, her downtown antiques and gift shop. Cleaning up after the storm is an all-too-familiar process for Pomeroy's riverfront shop owners, where floodwater literally comes with the territory.

"Once every now and then isn't that bad because you can get the cobwebs out," said Ms. Karr, whose storefront glared at a sea that extended across the Ohio River.

Pomeroy's placement along the river's bend positions it to be one of the first and hardest hit when the water comes ashore, Ms. Karr's husband, Ray, said. The September flood caused an estimated $2 million in damage. "It inconveniences more people here than just about any place else," said Mr. Karr, who owns a construction business in town. "You know if you own a store on Front Street it is going to flood here, so you plan for that."

As Pomeroy residents worked through the latest flood, several communities along the Ohio River did the same after being drenched in the aftermath of last week's storms. Cities further west like Cincinnati were still waiting for floodwater to come inland.

Wet roads throughout the region caused dangerous conditions for drivers looking to navigate communities near the river.

Bill Priddy examines a submerged road leading into Pomeroy. Almost all the roads in the area are under water. Bill Priddy examines a submerged road leading into Pomeroy. Almost all the roads in the area are under water.

Nearly all of the roads leading into Pomeroy were still closed yesterday as locals waited for the water to recede.

The tough terrain, though, was nothing new to Pomeroy Mayor John Musser, who admits that high water soaking the streets is the norm in his town. The mayor helped clean water out of a downtown church yesterday afternoon.

"When you live on the river, it is a way of life," Mayor Musser said. "You have to find ways to cope with the hand you are dealt."

For H.D. Brown, a dentist for 42 years, humor is the best medicine.

"We give famous floods," the longtime Pomeroy resident joked as he walked in front of his office, which faces the river.

"If we could find out a way to make an economic advantage from this, we'd have it made."

To a veteran of past floods, this weekend's flood is merely a bath.

The dentist remembers when 68-foot waters reached into the second floors of Pomeroy buildings in 1937.

"That was a flood, this is a plaything," Dr. Brown said.

Mick Williams, a town barber for 54 years, remembers the storied floods from long ago too.

"If you are going to live on the river, you expect it," said Mr. Williams, as he surveyed the damage outside.

"If you've got a business here, you can be sure that sometimes you are going to get wet."

But, Mr. Williams said, floods won't drive the people from their historic town.

After all, Mr. Williams said, "It's my home."

Contact Steve Eder at: seder@theblade.com or 419-724-6728.

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