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Defiant residents refuse to leave as floodwaters rise

March 6, 1997

WEST POINT, Ky. (AP) _ As the sun sets and floodwaters swirl around him, Bobby Roeder smokes by candlelight on the second floor of the Masonic Lodge, a 9 mm pistol at his side.

``I’m here to protect my lodge,″ says Roeder, 55, master of Barker Lodge 129. ``If the mayor’s not going, I’m not going.″

To the frustration of rescue workers, Roeder and Mayor Rube Yelvington are two of 60 die-hard residents of this tiny hamlet who refuse to budge.

``They’ll stay until they almost drown,″ Ernest Jackson, a military policeman in the National Guard, grumbled Wednesday. ``They’re mesmerized and hypnotized by the horror, the tragedy. They’re numb from all the devastation.″

West Point, a town of 1,300 nestled near the confluence of the raging Ohio and Salt rivers south of Louisville, has become an island over the past few days. Only boats and military humvees can brave 3 1/2 feet of water covering the two main roads into town and crisscrossing neighborhood streets.

Window-high at many trailer parks, houses and businesses, the chocolate-colored water rushes along foundations and laps at back doors on slightly higher ground.

Most residents fled last weekend as floodwaters threatened. But others are determined to stick it out despite waters that kept rising today.

Jason Vogt, 17, won’t leave his grandmother’s house where he stores 40 guns his grandfather left him. Despite pleading from National Guardsmen, Vogt’s friend, Ron Hood, said he and Vogt will remain.

``Are they gonna let us take all our guns?″ Hood asked. ``That’s the only way we’re leaving _ if we can float ’em out.″

Lorrie Carroll won’t abandon her pets.

As manager of a flooded trailer park, Carroll, along with her husband, son and canoe, broke into several trailer homes Wednesday and rescued about 20 cats and dogs.

``I have no place to take my animals. We have no where else to go,″ said Carroll, 31, who is living in the second floor of a friend’s flooded house. ``We’ve got a canoe to get out if we have to _ and a cell phone. We’re smart people, we know how to survive.″

Chris Johnson, his trailer surrounded by water, won’t leave without his antique roll-top desk.

``No matter what you do, Mr. Insurance Man is going to beat you out of whatever you’ve got,″ said Johnson, 40. ``So I’m trying to save furniture. When it comes to the almighty buck, it’s every man for himself.″

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Editor’s Note _ Julia Prodis is the AP’s Southwest regional reporter, based in Dallas.

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