Originally created 03/15/97

High and dry?

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Mike Greenwell learned his lesson in the 1978 flood, when he had to borrow $30,000 to cover the damage. This time, he had insurance. Now if only the adjuster would show up.

Down the street, Rob Williams thought he would get enough warning to move his things to higher ground. He had no insurance and he's going to have to go looking for second-hand furniture.

"Now I wish I had done that, buy the insurance," Mr. Williams said. "It just wasn't something I thought too much about."

As residents along the Ohio River and its tributaries clean up from flooding that caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, many who found their homes in ruins are facing another hard reality - no flood insurance to rebuild.

Even though flood insurance is available through a federal program, participants and their communities must meet certain requirements, including zoning codes.

Traditional opposition to landuse planning in Kentucky has prevented some people from getting coverage and may even keep some communities from obtaining federal disaster relief.

But for many flood victims it was the cost of flood coverage - $25 a month on average for a $100,000 policy - and a perhaps naive tendency to hope for the best that caused them to go without insurance.

How many are uninsured or underinsured is unclear. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers the insurance program, refused to provide estimates.

Agency spokesman Mark Stevens said it usually takes a month after floodwaters recede for officials to handle insurance claims.

There are 16,799 flood insurance policies in Kentucky alone representing slightly more than $1 billion in coverage. Standard homeowner and rental insurance does not cover flood damage.

For those with coverage, the problem now is not enough adjusters to go around and quickly cut checks.

For Mr. Greenwell, who is just now paying off the loan he got to replace the 1978 damages, it is an agonizing wait.

"They want to see the damage as is," Mr. Greenwell said. "It gets awfully frustrating when you're afraid to do too much because you know you're going to squabble with them."

State Farm Insurance spokesman Steve Glass said an additional 150 people were dispatched to help make adjustments, in addition to the 20 people who ordinarily settle claims in Kentucky.

Mr. Glass said people with flood coverage can expect checks anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.

FEMA bans federal disaster relief to communities that fail to adopt local flood management ordinances. But cities and counties can still adopt an ordinance and qualify for aid even if none was in place at the time of the flooding.

But in some rural areas of Kentucky, flood management ordinances are seen as too great of a governmental intrusion into property rights.

Western Kentucky's Christian County, for example, lacks an ordinance even though some residents are demanding it.

County Judge-Executive Steve Tribble said there hasn't been enough support on the fiscal court, the county's governing board.

"This situation was looked into," he said. "There were many, many people in Christian County opposed to zoning."


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