Harriman homeowners praying for a miracle to save their home from mud

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ROANE COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) – When David and Jennifer Palmer completed the building of their Harriman home, it felt like a dream.

Shortly after the months of coming to work on the house, on top of their full-time jobs, they discovered more work, and more money would be needed.

During the construction, the bottom third of the ridge next to their home slid and took out a brick wall lining their driveway.

The two cleaned it up, rebuilt the wall, and went years without any other issues. That was their first run-in with landslide problems.

“After we got it cleaned up, we didn’t think it would ever happen again. Here it is, 10 years later, and it’s worse than it’s ever been,” David said.

The second slide occurred after our region saw record rainfall, in February 2019. Another third of the ridge slid and took more of the ridge with it.

This event, once again, took out their brick wall and threatened their home. Jennifer laid out the months of work, and large sums of money they’ve put into cleaning up that damage.

It included moving more than 600 loads of mud in a dump truck. In fact, mud became such a chore, the couple bought a backhoe. The couple still had work to do from that damage last year, including rebuilding the wall along their driveway a second time.

Fewer than two weeks ago, on February 7, the two would experience another slide. This one claimed the highest part of the ridge next to their home, the top third.

This one is likely to result in the Palmers moving from the place they describe as their dream home.

The most recent slide is still growing. While at the home, WATE 6 On Your Side noticed rock falling and water slowly flowing down the ridge. Three days ago, the couple noticed more earth had taken out another section of their wall. It’s basically completely gone at this point.

David said engineers came to their home and suggested the two move.

“Nothing is certain, it might slide at any time,” David said. “It’s easier said than done for the couple, who planned on retiring in the home situated in the West Hills community.

“You know you’re going to have to move, but I guess you’re kind of in denial because it’s your home. It’s where you live…we’re moving, but, it’s slow.”

Jennifer is beginning to pack up the essentials but said it takes about three hours per box.

“We love it here. We fought for 10 years because we wanted to be here, otherwise, we would have jetted after the first time,” she said.

If the two have to leave, they’ll also have to continue paying their mortgage. And, if the house is eventually taken by a landslide, they won’t be covered by their insurance.

“I was told there was no insurance policy in the United States that would cover earth movement, mudslides, or mudflow,” Jennifer said. David also remembered inquiring after each of the three slides coverage for landslides.

Bill McFarland, a State Farm agent from Rockwood, said an earthquake endorsement on a home policy would cover damage to a house after a slide; however, he did note it wouldn’t pay for stabilizing the land next to a home because, “insurance companies don’t insure dirt.”

McFarland said his offices offers two options for that endorsement: One with a 10% deductible and another with a 5%. He estimated the coverage option to be between $80-100 per year, for a home valued around $150,000.

The Palmers both agreed they would have gladly paid the price, without knowing what their premium increase would have been.

“Right now it’s not looking good…This could happen to anybody, I mean, we never thought this would happen. When we bought the house there was a little spot of water and that spot of water has turned into this,” David said as he gestured toward the massive slide beside his house.

He also noted the two were never warned by any inspection agency the home they were building was going up on the unstable ground.

Jennifer said that information would have been helpful, given the two have spent an estimated $200,000 on mitigating the mud, and could have paid off their mortgage by now if they’d built in another location.

The two hope there is a solution to stabilize the land surrounding their home, thus allowing them to continue living there, on the federal, state, or even local level; however, the only thing they ask for from their friends, family, and community — is prayers.

“Money is not going to help us because we cannot afford it. It’s, you know, way beyond us being able to fix,” David said.


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