Wolf Creek Dam residents run into insurance dilemma

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If Wolf Creek Dam failed disaster officials estimate dozens could be killed and millions of dollars in property would be destroyed along the Cumberland River, but people living below the dam now have a new warning system.

It’s called Reverse 911 and it works by calling those in imminent danger of flooding, but it’s not just the dam failing that has many people in the affected area worried.

Lena Marie Bernard is prepared, should Wolf Creek Dam fail and the Cumberland River in front of her house flood, she’s got her weather alert radio. Her phone is in her front shirt pocket should she get a call from Reverse 911 telling her to evacuate and she’s even got an escape route.

“That hill is the only chance I would have, if I could make it up the hill,” Bernard said, but still she worries. “Well I’m just afraid. It could happen in the night and I don’t think we would get out of here in a car.”

Over the next few weeks Bernard and her neighbors along the river could be getting a call with the message that Reverse 911 is being tested.

Gordan “Sonny” Miller’s house would be under water. He’s seen it before, but it doesn’t concern him now.

“I’ve seen floods. I’ve left out of here in a boat. It just doesn’t bother me,” Miller said.

According to Army Engineers, it is highly unlikely that the dam will fail, but people wanting to protect their property are running into a roadblock. Flood insurance is hard to come by.

Russell County isn’t in the National Flood Insurance Program. If the river floods today, people like Miller would lose everything.

“I’d be up a creek without a paddle. That’s true. You can carry all other insurance, which I have, but no flood insurance,” Miller said. “They claim we’re in a flood plain. They won’t sell us that insurance. I guess it’s because we’re so close to the river.”

Emergency officials said they’re working to include Russell County in the Flood Insurance Program.

Russell County’s Emergency Management Director said flood insurance will be discussed at the May 14, 2007, fiscal court meeting.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers posted the Wolf Creek Dam Flood Inundation Maps on-line April 12, 2007, to help better prepare those who live in the threatened area. These maps predict flood damage on the Cumberland River in a worst-case scenario if the dam failed.

Inundation maps were previously released to 23 public libraries in communities along the river.

The Corps initially resisted posting them on-line or releasing them to newspapers because of security concerns.

If you would like to download the inundation maps, click here.