Friday, September 25, 2009

WA insurance commissioner re: weakened King County dam: Buy flood coverage now

With fall rainy season fast approaching in the Pacific Northwest, Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is urging insurers to get the word out about flood coverage for homeowners downstream from a weakened dam.

State and local officials are concerned about the Howard Hanson Dam, where a weakened abutment may require the Army Corps of Engineers to release more water than usual. The dam itself is not believed to be at risk for failure, but the need to keep the pool behind the dam low heightens the risk of flooding downstream in the heavily developed Green River Valley. That includes parts of the Washington cities Auburn, Kent, Renton and Tukwila.

"If there's any good news in all of this, it's that we still have time to take measures to prevent and mitigate problems before the storms hit," Kreidler said in the letter. He said "every homeowner in the Green River Valley should have this important coverage."

He wants them to tell their customers in the area about the National Flood Insurance Program. (That federal site includes a "one-step flood risk profile" in which you can type in your address and instantly see the property's flood risk, examples of premiums, and a list of local agents participating in the program.)

Kreidler said that flood insurance doesn't take effect until 30 days after a policy is written. With the flood season beginning Nov. 1, he said, it's critical for people to act quickly.

For homeowners, Kreidler's also recommending:
-considering installing a sewer backflow valve to prevent sewer drain lines from backing up into the house,
-documenting home contents with photos or a video,
-moving important papers upstairs, and ideally making copies and storing those off-site,
-and planning for evacuation, including an easily portable cache of medicine, food, flashlight, key papers, radio, toiletries and pet- and baby supplies.

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