Posted on 06 Jun 2013 by Neilson
Oklahoma insurers have fielded about 32,400 tornado-related claims since May 19, which cost about $250 million, according to recent figures from the Oklahoma Insurance Department.
Auto claims account for about 17,500 of the overall figure, while homeowners claims have numbered about 14,000, according to the OID. There have been about 700 commercial property claims.
The state over the past few weeks has been under siege from twisters, particularly in the greater Oklahoma City area. A massive EF-5 tornado May 31 raked the town of El Reno, just 30 miles west of Oklahoma City, in the most recent spate of activity. The National Weather Service said that tornado was 2.6 miles wide, making it the widest tornado on record in the U.S.
The NWS upgraded the strength of that storm June 5, making it much stronger than the EF-3 it was initially believed to be. The twister's width does not include straight-line winds near the funnel, the NWS said. Catastrophe-risk modeling firm RMS said there were nine confirmed twisters May 31 in Oklahoma. Five other twisters struck the Oklahoma City metro area along with heavy rains, RMS said.
The outbreak started May 19 when an EF-4 tornado swept through Shawnee, Okla., which is about 40 miles east of Oklahoma City. The damage continued into May 20 when an EF-5 tornado ravaged Moore, Okla., a town of about 55,000 which is 11 miles south of Oklahoma City. That same weekend brought lesser damage to other Plains states, and Eqecat has estimated that insured damages from the system will range from $2 billion to $5 billion.
Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak said recently his department is closely watching insurance company solvency following the storms. The OID expects the tornadoes to be a heavily insured loss event because of the metropolitan nature of the affected area. That's in contrast to the rural wildfires of 2012 when the OID saw a lot of uninsured damage because people had mortgages paid off.
Some in the insurance industry, including State Farm Spokesman Jim Camoriano and Farmers Insurance Chief Executive Officer Jeff Dailey, have compared the damage in Moore to the 2011 twister that leveled Joplin, Mo., saying the scope is comparable (Best's News Service, May 24, 2013).
Joplin was a town of 50,000 before it was wiped off the map by the May 22, 2011 twister (Best's News Service May 24, 2011). Damage from that tornado has since tallied almost $2 billion in insured losses.