Tornado Watch

It looks as if spring will bring increased tornado and severe storm activity for property/casualty insurers due to the wet El Nià ±o winter, at least that’s what the weather experts believe. Greg Forbes, severe weather expert at The Weather Channel is quoted in USA Today saying that comparable past winters suggest there could be an above-average number of tornadoes this year – potentially 9 percent more tornadoes on average than a typical year. Forbes is not the only one predicting an above-average 2010 tornado season for the United States. Tony Lupo, chair of the Department of Atmospheric Science at the University of Missouri, tells BusinessWeek.com that the storm season, which in the Midwest runs from mid-March to June, probably will bring more hailstorms, lightning, high winds and tornadoes than normal. The weather pattern resembles the spring of 2003 when as many as 109 tornadoes swept across Missouri, according to Lupo.

Our research suggests the season has a way to go if it is to live up to the above-average predictions. Preliminary data from the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center (SPC) show that so far in 2010 there have been just 44 tornado reports and zero deaths, significantly down on comparable 2009 data. Accuweather.com points out that there was only one tornado report in February – the least amount of tornadoes ever recorded in that month. There are typically 22 tornadoes on average during February, based on reports dating back to 1950 from the SPC, so it was incredibly rare not to have one, according to Accuweather’s Jon Auciello. Annual totals show there were 1156 tornadoes in 2009, down from 1691 in 2008. The number of tornado-related fatalities also dropped to 21, compared to 126 in 2008, according to SPC. However, 2008 was the worst year for catastrophe losses from tornadoes and related weather events and among the worst years on record for the number of tornadoes. According to A.M. Best, tornadoes and weather events have caused nearly 57 percent on average of all U.S. insured catastrophe losses in any given year since 1953 – no small number. Check out I.I.I. facts and stats on tornadoes.

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