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Insurance Claims from Texas Storms, Tornadoes Come Flooding In


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Posted on 20 May 2013 by Neilson

Tornadoes in TexasState Farm had received 1,415 auto claims and 2,100 for home damage by Friday morning, less than 48 hours after violent tornadoes hit the Texas communities of Granbury, Cleburne and others.

Insurers are preparing for a flood of insurance claims over the next several days as homeowners continue cleanup and recovery efforts.

State Farm and other insurance companies have mobilized additional adjusters, claims specialists and other staff that specialize in dealing with catastrophes. Allstate has deployed two mobile claims centers near the affected communities.

"We are reaching out to customers to take care of their needs as quickly as possible," said State Farm spokesman Gary Stephenson. "We'll be working seven days a week for the foreseeable future."

Insurance industry officials say it's still too early to estimate the total damage, but it will probably be costly given one of the tornadoes was an EF-4 with sustained winds up to 200 mph.

"Claims are coming in right now and they'll continue to come in for several days, and that's the problem of trying to give you a dollar amount in the first day," said Mark Hanna, a spokesman with the Insurance Council of Texas. "We don't know when the claims will stop."

A storm that hit North Texas in April 2012 caused $750 million in damage, according to the Insurance Council. Damage from a hailstorm on June 13 hit $900 million, Hanna said.

The costliest hailstorm in Texas history was what is commonly referred to as Fort Worth's "Mayfest" storm in May 1995. That storm racked up $1.1 billion in damage costs.

"So throw in inflation, you could see what we're talking about," Hanna said.

Hanna said insurance adjusters were focusing on homeowners hit the hardest, providing living expense checks to those whose homes were too damaged to occupy.

Bill Mellander, a specialist with Allstate's national catastrophe team, advised homeowners to be patient as adjusters sort through claims and assess damage. Agents were swamped with customers filing claims Thursday morning, but activity slowed down as the day progressed, Mellander said.

Allstate covers more than 68,000 homeowner policies in Tarrant and Hood counties.

"Their insurance company will get to them as fast as they can," Mellander said. "They need to be patient, understand that in an event like this, we are to some extent restricted by some of the same things they are. It's important that our employees are safe and the neighborhoods are safe for them."

Mellander, who has responded to hundreds of tornadoes over the last 15 years, characterized the damage near Cleburne as significant.

"Damage here reflects a 200-mile-an-hour windstorm," he said.


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