Category Archives: Tornadoes

Lloyd’s on Tornado Trends

Data on tornadoes can be both unreliable and inconsistent, making it impossible to identify long term trends, according to a new report from Lloyd’s.

Tornado records underreport tornado numbers and changes in classification of tornado strengths adds further uncertainty, making it even more difficult to determine trends in tornado frequency and severity, the report says. Even in the United States detailed records only exist back to 1950.

While the number of officially recorded tornadoes has risen, this can be attributed to better reporting, tracking and more people, homes and infrastructure in the path of a tornado, Lloyd’s says.

The report notes:

Despite the anomalous 2011 season there is no trend in the number of strong to violent tornadoes between 1950 and 2012, evidence that the number of high intensity events has not increased over that period.†

Note: 2011 was an unusually active and deadly year for tornadoes across the U.S., with over 1,600 tornadoes recorded, more than any other year on record except for 2004. Costs were high, with seven individual tornado and severe weather outbreaks recording damages that exceeded $1 billion. Total damage from the outbreaks is estimated at in excess of $28 billion.

But while the number of violent tornado losses may not be increasing, insured losses are.

The report identifies a clear trend of increasing annual aggregate losses to the insurance market and says that billion dollar losses are becoming more common:

As exposure continues to increase, tornadoes represent a more serious threat to the insurance industry. An active tornado season hitting populated areas could result in high damages and it is important that insurers consider modeling and managing potential exposure.†

Check out I.I.I. facts+statistics on tornadoes here. PC360 has more on this story.

U.S. Tornado Losses Dominate 2012 Nat Cats So Far

Extreme weather event losses in the United States dominated natural catastrophe loss statistics in the first half of 2012, according to a review by Munich Re and the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

In  the 2012 half-year natural catastrophe review, Munich Re noted that some 85 percent of worldwide insured losses and 61 percent of overall losses were incurred in America, predominantly in the U.S. – compared with an annual average of 65 percent and 40 percent respectively since 1980.

Severe thunderstorm, tornado events in the U.S. accounted for the five costliest natural catastrophes for the insurance industry in the first six months of the year.

The most severe single event was a squall line that crossed several states between 2 and 4 March. Some 170 tornadoes were counted in and around the Ohio and Tennessee River alone, and a small number of communities were almost completely destroyed. Insured losses totaled $2.3 billion.

In a press release Peter HÃ ¶ppe, Head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research unit, noted:

Overall, most of the severe thunderstorm-related outbreaks with tornadoes affect a limited area, and may cause serious damage locally but are not comparable in scale to events like severe hurricanes. However, due to the number of events, the aggregate annual loss amounts can attain the level of a major hurricane landfall, as seen last year.†

The good news for insurers is that natural catastrophe losses in the first half of 2012 were relatively moderate. Overall global losses to the end of June were $26 billion, of which some $12 billion were insured.

In a recent post over at the Property/Casualty Insurance blog, Gary Kerney commented that for decades, hurricanes got the headlines and caused more insured losses than tornadoes and thunderstorms, but last year, all that changed.

More facts and statistics on tornadoes and thunderstorms from the I.I.I.

Texas Tornadoes and Hail

As well as strong winds and heavy rains, hail – ranging from pea to baseball size – was a feature of the massive tornadoes that touched down in the Dallas Fort Worth area yesterday.

Specifically, the Dallas-Fort Worth international airport reported that more than 100 aircraft were damaged by hail, according to CNN.

Hail causes about $1 billion in damage to crops and property each year, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Pea size hail measures an estimated  ¼ inch in diameter, while baseball size hail would measure about 2  ¾ inches.

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) reminds us that hail damage is covered under standard homeowners insurance. It is also covered under your auto policy provided you have comprehensive coverage.

Some insurers may have special deductibles in hail prone areas, to help keep insurance premiums at affordable levels.

Physical damage to aircraft as a result of hail would be covered under a hull insurance policy.

The I.I.I. reports there were over 9,000 major hail storms in 2010, according to statistics from NOAA’s Severe Storms database. Texas had the largest number of severe hail events in 2010, followed by Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

Learn  how  to protect your home from hail in this I.I.I. video:

Tornado Tally

Damage assessments have begun in the wake of Friday’s powerful storm system that brought a massive outbreak of tornadoes across the Midwest and South and left 39 dead.

So far, the National Weather Service (NWS) has confirmed 42 tornadoes from Friday: Indiana – 3; Virginia – 1; North Carolina – 2; Ohio – 5; West Virginia – 2; Kentucky – 8; Tennessee – 8; Alabama – 7; Mississippi – 1; Georgia – 5.

However, this number will rise as NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center (SPC) logged 107 preliminary tornado reports from Friday’s outbreak, according to Dr. Jeff Masters’ Wunderblog.

Dr. Masters notes that these preliminary reports are typically over counted by 15 percent and predicts the total number of tornadoes from Friday’s outbreak will probably finish in the 90 to 100 range.

The severe weather also brought damaging winds and hail.

Friday’s outbreak follows a separate storm system earlier in the week that spawned several tornadoes in the Midwest. The severe weather 28/29 February caused widespread property damage and left at least 12 dead.

NOAA issued 440 tornado warnings and 606 thunderstorm warnings last week alone. USA Today has an interesting article on how tornado forecasts saved countless lives.

The Insurance Information Institute’s facts and statistics are a useful resource on the insurance implications of tornadoes.

Latest information can also be found at Guy Carpenter’s online CAT-i bulletins and catastrophe modeling firm EQECAT’s CatWatch catastrophe reports.

See an animation of Friday’s developing severe weather system via NOAA’s GOES-13 satellite below:

Tornado Activity Picks Up

Tornadoes were the costliest type of natural disaster in the United States in 2011, based on insured losses, according to Munich Re.

Insured losses from tornadoes/thunderstorms totaled more than $25 billion last year, more than double the previous record.

Only two months into 2012, and a series of tornadoes has struck the Midwest U.S. causing fatalities and significant damage in certain areas.

The tornado that hit Harrisburg, Illinois, rated an EF4—the second most powerful on the rating scale—according to the National Weather Service, resulted in six deaths, nearly 100 injuries and at least 200 homes destroyed or damaged.

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) reminds us that standard homeowners and business insurance policies cover wind damage to the structure of the building and its contents caused by tornadoes and thunderstorms.

Preliminary data from NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center show there have been 128 tornadoes in 2012 so far, causing nine deaths.

For the whole of 2011 the preliminary count is 1,709 tornadoes, causing 550 deaths. Actual figures for 2010 show there were 1,282 tornadoes and 45 related deaths.

In May 2011 a tornado in Joplin, Missouri, and surrounding areas caused 159 fatalities, making it the deadliest tornado since modern record keeping began in 1950, according to NOAA.

Read more about how residents in Joplin, Missouri have begun updating the city’s tornado warning sirens over at the Disaster Safety Blog (official blog of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety.

Here’s a visual of preliminary tornado reports from January 1, 2012 to February 29, 2012, courtesy of NOAA’s SPC: