FRANKFORT, Ky. -- The unrelenting onslaught of severe rains that saturated large areas of Kentucky eroded dozens of hillsides, sending powerful and destructive muddy masses into numerous neighborhoods, backyards and homes.
Mudflows, mudslides and landslides usually strike without warning. The force of rocks, soil, or other debris moving down a slope can devastate anything in its path. In the United States, it is estimated that they cause up to $2 billion in damages and from 25 to 50 deaths annually.
Kentuckians struggling to recover from recent severe storms and floods agree that no matter which type occurs, they are a major-and costly-headache for homeowners.
For residents with flood insurance policies from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), some coverage for mud-caused loss or damage may be available if the cause was a mudflow. Talk to your insurance agent about your coverage.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster mitigation specialists explain that a mudflow is a river of liquid mud similar in consistency to a milkshake. Mudslides, on the other hand, are more solid and more closely resemble a cake. And a landslide is a rapid shift in landmass that is typically associated with periods of heavy rainfall.
Landslides occur in every state, but Kentucky has one of the most severe problems. The slides tend to worsen the effects of flooding that often accompany them. While some landslides move slowly and cause damage gradually, others move so rapidly that they can destroy property and take lives suddenly and unexpectedly.
Recovery officials urge homeowners to reduce these hazards by planning ahead.
To minimize your vulnerability:
- Plant ground cover on slopes and build retaining walls;
Build channels or deflection walls to direct the flow around buildings in potential mudflow areas;
If you divert a mudflow or any water and it crosses to a neighbor's property, you may be liable for damages; and
An affordable NFIP policy to cover flood and mudflow damage can be purchased through a local insurance agency. You don't have to live in a floodplain to be vulnerable to flood damage or loss.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.