Alabama Insurance Commissioner Jim Ridling said at a news conference today said that insured losses in the state from last week's devastating tornadoes in the U.S. South are expected to exceed the state's $2 billion losses from Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
"This is the worst disaster dollar-wise. Ivan was a lot different but this is more difficult," said Insurance Commissioner Jim Ridling after meeting executives from leading insurance companies who are assessing the damage to the state.
Alabama and six other Southern states are counting the cost of the United States' second deadliest tornado outbreak on record. It destroyed whole neighborhoods and killed more than 330 people, more than 230 of them in Alabama alone.
Ridling said Alabama suffered the majority of the $2 billion to $5 billion insured losses broadly estimated for all of the affected states by one disaster risk modeler, EQECAT.
"In all my years in the insurance industry I have never seen anything so violent and widespread," he said. "There's not a lot of minor damage -- it was either destroyed or left alone."
He said that unlike approaching hurricanes, which allowed some time for emergency preparations, the racing, dipping twisters that struck a week ago allowed far less advance warning. "There was no lead time," Ridling said.
Some 17,000 insurance claims adjusters had been given badges so far to process claims in the state. They were working with GPS satellite technology to confirm the location of homes that had been leveled and scattered.
Ridling and Alabama Governor Robert Bentley were reluctant to give a more precise figure for the state's insured losses, saying evaluation of the damage, as well as an overall fatality figure, was continuing.
"I wish we could give you numbers ... We don't know yet the amount of houses (destroyed) or the monetary value," Bentley said. "We're trying to assess that now."