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Lessons learned in aftermath of Peeks Creek mudslide could help Polk County

Polk County is dealing with immediate needs after its recent mudslide. Some 14 years ago, it was Macon County residents who were dealing with a devastating mudslide. Lessons learned then could prove helpful now, including how long recovery takes. (Photo credit: Macon Co. Emergency Services)

Polk County is dealing with immediate needs after its recent mudslide. Some 14 years ago, it was Macon County residents who were dealing with a devastating mudslide. Lessons learned then could prove helpful now, including how long recovery takes.

In September 2004, a mudslide killed five people along Peeks Creek in Macon County. Emergency leaders caution residents in Polk County that recovery will take years and there will be several issues with rebuilding and relocating homes and, in some cases, buying out property.

Macon County Emergency Management director Warren Cabe advises residents to have a good handle on their insurance.

“You really need to sit down with your agent. You need to understand what your policy covers. You need to understand what your risks are,” Cabe said.

Cabe expects Polk County, like Macon did, will have talks debating possible options governing where houses can or cannot be placed.

“And those are some very tough conversations,” he said.

Cabe said Polk County might also expect to see a decline in first responders because of post traumatic stress.

“Because of the severity of what they saw,” he said.

Cabe said officials did some things right with Peeks Creek, and some wrong. But since then, they have improved their incident management, which he said includes a two-way street with residents.

“The government and emergency preparedness agencies can't solve everybody's need. We have to help folks be able to take care of themselves,” Cabe said.

He said since the Peeks Creek mudslide, they've made several improvements in incident management.

Cabe said recovery from a devastating mudslide takes years and cautions areas hit by mudslides will never be the same.

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