Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Night That Covington Stood Still

COVINGTON - "He came down to the scene like a captain coming to his ship," or something like that, is what I overheard one of the news reporters behind me saying while I stood with the crowd. She was colorfully describing how local restaurateur Jeff Ruby came down to see his "Waterfront" restaurant on Friday night about 100 ft. upstream from where it normally is. The floating "Boat-Raunt," as I dubbed it, had been pushed away from its usual spot by the currents of the river, which had grown strong due to flooding this past week, something I had witnessed earlier in the day.

- The top of the Serpentine Wall at Sawyer Point Park.

This whole past week I've been on Spring Break from school. The beginning of the week the weather was nice, followed by two days of rain. After that, it snowed. Then I woke up on Friday to find relatively warm temperatures and sunlight. I had some time to kill before work, so I went down to Sawyer Point to check out how high the river had gotten.

Access to the Serpentine Wall had been cut off by barricades. Many people, like myself, chose to ignore them to get closer to the water's edge. Apparently I wasn't the only one who wanted to see the floodwater and enjoy a really nice day in the park.

The park was full of people snapping photos with cell phones, point-and-shoot cameras and even digital SLR's like mine. The river was a rare sight to see. While I've photographed the river with high water before, I had never seen it this high in person. Some sources claim this is the highest it's been since the flood of 97. Not sure if that's right though. *Edit: According to reader Eric, the river has only been this high one other time since 1997. Thanks for the info, Eric!

- Panoramic photograph of Sawyer Point flooding. 

About eight hours later though, I was back down by the river. I had just gotten home from one job and was half awake, laying in bed when I saw someone post on facebook that the "Waterfront in Covington broke loose." At first I took that literally and thought an actual part of Covington's shoreline had been swept up by the rushing river waters. Then I read on the Enquirer's website that the Waterfront was the name of the floating restaurant down there and that it had floated away, apparently hitting the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge. I jumped up, grabbed my camera and hopped in the car with my roommates. We crossed the river and could see lights from police cars and tugboats down way. After finding a parking spot along the levee wall, we climbed the grassy hill to the top and found a crowd of onlookers and news crews.

At first glance from that distance, if you didn't know any better, everything looked fine. The restaurant was just sitting there, a little bit off the shore, still floating and right by a parking lot. You'd think it had always been there. However, it had floated about 100 feet east of its usual location. Apparently all 150 people aboard were fine and the fire department was working on getting people to shore. I snapped a few pictures and left.

- A tugboat lends assistance to the distressed floating restaurant.

- One of the restaurant's ramps lodged in the water.

While what happened was newsworthy, unusual and could've been much worse; the Cincinnati local media really ran with this story. When we got back to our apartment, one of my roommates had pulled up Channel 12's website where they had a 23 minute video of the story. The video is mostly the newscasters speculating potential disaster scenarios of what COULD happen if things took a catastrophic turn, even though it was pretty clear things were calm and a rescue effort had begun. Many members of the public ate the local media's colorful interpretation right up. A quick read through a few of the comments on this Enquirer article show how some people were wanting to immediately string up Jeff Ruby. The comments on Channel 12's site are just as interesting. One person claimed that Mr. Ruby was "the only one to blame for this stupid act." Last time I checked, it was the River who pushed the restaurant away and as of this moment all signs indicate that it wasn't intentional, therefore the river didn't "act."

- Firefighters evacuating restaurant patrons.

According to Ruby, the Waterfront has stayed open in flood waters before. He wasn't planning to close it until or if the city of Covington decided to put up the nearby floodgate. A few years back, he had a new plank installed that could float as the river rose, allowing the restaurant to stay open when water got high. Luckily no one was hurt and what transpired ended up being nothing more than an interesting story. But with the way some people reacted and covered it, you'd think this could've been the end of Queen City civilization, or fine dining, as we know it (I wonder how many tv news reports we'll see this week about how "safe" the other floating restaurants are (OMG, what about Newport Hooters!?)). May we never forget "The Night That Covington Stood Still!"


  1. As I type the river is at 55.57 ft, and according to the NWS, the river has been higher than this only once since 1997 ( Granted, 1997 was one of the highest points in the river's history.

    Great pics

  2. You just gotta shake your head imagining 1937, when the river reached 80ft!