A Decade Later, Triple-I Reflects on One of Missouri’s Darkest Days

For immediate release
Michael Barry, 917-923-8245, michaelb@iii.org

KANSAS CITY, Mo., May 20, 2021 — Days before the 10th anniversary of the Joplin, Mo., tornado, one of the deadliest in U.S. history, the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I) released a video chronicling the tragedy and Joplin’s remarkable comeback.

The EF-5 tornado killed 161 people and injured more than 1,000 others on Sunday, May 22, 2011. The city is situated in southwestern Missouri and home to about 50,000 residents. The city has a daytime population of approximately 240,000 and serves as the central hub of the “four states” region of Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.

“The staggering loss of life which occurred in Joplin, Missouri a decade ago remains a vivid memory to this day,” said Sean Kevelighan, CEO, Triple-I.  “And those who survived had to recover emotionally and financially from an unimaginable natural disaster. Yet the insurance industry responded quickly after the day’s tragic events and fulfilled its traditional role as an economic first responder.”

“I felt for the claims adjusters because they would go out to see a home and the devastation was so bad, they didn’t know where they were at because there were no houses left to even see an address,” Steve Haskins, an American Family Insurance agent in Joplin, Mo., told the Triple-I, describing how insurance companies served the community after a tornado with 200-plus miles per hour winds left complete devastation in its wake. The tornado either destroyed or damaged about 7,500 Joplin homes and displaced more than 9,000 Joplin residents. 

“This was the largest insurance event in Missouri history and the costliest tornado in U.S. history,” stated John Huff, President & CEO, Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR), who was Missouri’s Director of Insurance in 2011. “I was so proud of the insurance industry in that moment, and I will tell you the figure that stuck with me. In the first 100 days, over a billion was paid out,” referring to the cumulative dollar value of the insured claim payouts made to Joplin residents and businesses who incurred property damage.

The Joplin tornado eventually generated $2 billion-plus in insured claim payouts, according to the Missouri Department of Commerce & Insurance. These insurance proceeds financed much of Joplin’s new construction since 2011.

“It is not just the stellar and beautiful facilities of the new high school and the new hospital and what we’ve done with our roads and infrastructure,” said Doug Hunt, Director of Entrepreneurship, Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, adding: “We’re also changing our mindset to let the world know that we’re open for business and we’re doing it, yes, for economic development, but the core of that is we’re doing that because that’s part of the legacy of the 161 that we left behind on that dark night.”

Scott Holeman, the Triple-I’s Kansas City, Mo.-based Director, Media Relations, produced and narrated the Triple-I’s Joplin 10th anniversary commemoration video, shot on location in Joplin, Mo.


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