Tornadoes and Insurance

Each year, about 1,200 tornadoes with wind speeds as high as 300 mph touch down in the United States. Though potentially not as damaging as hurricanes, tornadoes are more frequent. They can cause severe damage over a small area and, particularly before the advent of tornado warnings, many deaths. In the decade, 1965-1974, they were responsible for an average of 141 deaths each year, compared with 57 in the 10 years 1995-2004. The peak of the tornado season is April through June or July. Spring tornadoes tend to be more severe and strike the Southeast, which is more densely populated than the Great Plains, thus causing more deaths than those in the summer months. In addition, the South has more mobile homes than other regions. Mobile homes are vulnerable to tornado damage.

Since 1990 the number of tornadoes has generally exceeded 1,000 a year. In the three preceding decades, the only year in which there were more than 1,000 tornadoes was 1973, when 1,102 were reported. This increase may reflect greater ability to detect tornadoes.

Thousands of homes, businesses and vehicles were destroyed by the twister that sent 205-mph winds through the town of Greensburg, Kansas, in 2007. The Oklahoma town of Sweetwater, about 225 miles south of Greensburg, was hit hard by a twister that severely damaged a high school and other buildings. Each year about 1,200 tornadoes with wind speeds as high as 300 mph touch down in the United States. Though not generally as destructive as hurricanes, tornadoes are more frequent and can also cause severe damage.

Standard homeowners and business insurance policies cover wind damage caused by tornadoes and severe weather. Homeowner’s insurance policies also provide coverage for additional living expenses policyholders will need to finance temporary housing costs and other daily necessities. Damage to vehicles is covered under the comprehensive section of standard auto insurance policies, which is optional.

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