Statistics on Tornados and Damages

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Tornadoes

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm and comes into contact with the ground, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In an average year about 1,000 tornadoes are reported nationwide, according to NOAA. Tornado intensity is measured by the enhanced Fujita (EF) scale. The scale rates tornadoes on a scale of 0 through 5, based on the amount and type of wind damage. It incorporates 28 different damage indicators, based on damage to a wide variety of structures ranging from trees to shopping malls.

The U.S. experiences more tornadoes than any other country in the world, according to a 2013 report by Lloyd’s of London. (See Executive Summary, page 4 of Tornadoes a Rising Risk? for additional findings and statistics.)

The Fujita Scale For Tornadoes

Original F scale (1)Enhanced F scale (2)
CategoryDamageWind speed (mph)3-second gust (mph)
F-0Light40-7265-85
F-1Moderate73-11286-110
F-2Considerable113-157111-135
F-3Severe158-207136-165
F-4Devastating208-260166-200
F-5Incredible261-318Over 200

(1) Original scale: wind speeds represent fastest estimated speeds over one quarter of a mile.
(2) Enhanced scale: wind speeds represent maximum 3-second gusts.

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Tornadoes accounted for 40 percent of inflation-adjusted insured catastrophe losses from 1997 to 2016, according to Property Claim Services (PCS®), a Verisk Analytics® business. In 2018 insured losses from U.S. tornadoes and thunderstorms totaled $14.1 billion, down from $18 billion in 2017, according to Munich Re. The number of tornadoes fell to 1,124 in 2018 from 1,429 in 2017, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The 2017 total was the highest since 2011, when there were 1,691 tornadoes, including two spring events that resulted in more than $14 billion in losses when they occurred. There were 10 direct fatalities from tornadoes in 2018, compared with 35 in 2017, according to NOAA. May was the top month for tornadoes in 2018, with 155 twisters. The United States experiences more tornadoes than any other country, according to a 2013 report by Lloyd’s of London.

Preliminary NOAA reports show there were 1,429 tornadoes in 2019 through early November compared to 1,060 for the same period in 2018. Tornadoes killed 38 people from January to November 2019, compared with nine people for the same period in 2018.

On March 3, 2019 a tornado struck southeast Alabama as part of a severe storm system that resulted in catastrophic damage in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. At least 23 people were killed in the March 3 tornado in Lee County, Alabama. In Beauregard, Alabama, the tornado left a half-mile wide path of destruction. The National Weather Service said that the tornado was F4 strength with top winds of 170 miles per hour. The tornado storm system of March 3 was the deadliest outbreak in the United States since a system in Arkansas and Mississippi in April 2014 killed 35 people.

There were 303 tornadoes in April which caused seven deaths: two each in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma and one in Mississippi. There were 556 tornadoes recorded in May. These tornadoes claimed another seven lives, including three in Missouri, two in Oklahoma and one each in Iowa and Ohio. Tornadoes from May 26 to May 29 in 13 states caused $2.8 billion in losses, according to the Property Claim Services unit of ISO. On October 20 and 21, a severe thunderstorm outbreak ripped through Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana, and produced several tornadoes including an EF-3 affecting the Dallas, Texas area. Aon said insured losses may reach the hundreds of million dollars.

Insured Losses

The United States experiences more tornadoes than any other country. Tornadoes accounted for 39.9 percent of insured catastrophe losses from 1997 to 2016, according to Verisk’s Property Claim Services (PCS). A March 2017 report by Willis Re found that the average annual loss from severe convective storms is $11.23 billion (in 2016 dollars) compared to $11.28 billion from hurricanes, based on PCS data. In 2018, insured losses from U.S. tornadoes/thunderstorms totaled $14.1 billion, up from $18.2 billion in 2017, according to Munich RE. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration notes that tornadoes can happen any time of year. The costliest U.S. catastrophe involving tornadoes, based on insured losses, occurred in April 2011. It hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and other areas, and cost $8.2 billion in insured damages (in 2018 dollars). The second costliest catastrophe involving tornadoes, based on insured losses, struck Joplin, Missouri, and other locations in May 2011. The catastrophe cost $7.8 billion in insured losses in 2018 dollars. (See chart below.) The National Weather Service posts updated information on tornadoes.

View Archived Graphs

Number Of Tornadoes And Related Deaths Per Month, 2018 (1)

(1) Excludes Puerto Rico. A tornado that crosses state lines is counted as a single event in this chart.

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Storm Prediction Center, National Weather Service.

View Archived Graphs

Do I Need Business Interruption Insurance?

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Business interruption insurance can be as vital to your survival as a business as fire insurance. Most people would never consider opening a business without buying insurance to cover damage due to fire and windstorms. But too many small business owners fail to think about how they would manage if a fire or other disaster damaged their business premises so that they were temporarily unusable. Business interruption coverage is not sold separately. It is added to a property insurance policy or included in a package policy.

A business that has to close down completely while the premises are being repaired may lose out to competitors. A quick resumption of business after a disaster is essential.

  1. Business interruption insurance compensates you for lost income if your company has to vacate the premises due to disaster-related damage that is covered under your property insurance policy, such as a fire. Business interruption insurance covers the revenue you would have earned, based on your financial records, had the disaster not occurred. The policy also covers operating expenses, like electricity, that continue even though business activities have come to a temporary halt.
  2. Make sure the policy limits are sufficient to cover your company for more than a few days. After a major disaster, it can take more time than many people anticipate to get the business back on track. There is generally a 48-hour waiting period before business interruption coverage kicks in.
  3. The price of the policy is related to the risk of a fire or other disaster damaging your premises. All other things being equal, the price would probably be higher for a restaurant than a real estate agency, for example, because of the greater risk of fire. Also, a real estate agency can more easily operate out of another location.

Extra expense insurance

Extra expense insurance reimburses your company for a reasonable sum of money that it spends, over and above normal operating expenses, to avoid having to shut down during the restoration period. Usually, extra expenses will be paid if they help to decrease business interruption costs. In some instances, extra expense insurance alone may provide sufficient coverage, without the purchase of business interruption insurance.

What are My Liabilities When Hosting a Party at Home

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Whether you’re hosting a Super Bowl party for 50 or greeting the New Year with a few friends, if you’re planning to serve alcohol at your home take steps to limit your liquor liability and make sure you have the proper insurance.


Social host liability is the legal term for the criminal and civil responsibility of a person who furnishes liquor to a guest. Social host liability can have serious consequences for party throwers.

Social host liability law

Also known as “Dram Shop Liability,” social host liability laws vary widely from state to state, but 43 states have them on the books. Most of these laws also offer an injured person, such as the victim of a drunk driver, a method to sue the person who served the alcohol. There are circumstances under these laws where criminal charges may also apply.

While a social host is not liable for injuries sustained by a drunken guest (as the guest is also negligent), the host can be held liable for harm to third parties, and even for passengers of the guest who have been injured in their car.

Social host liability—insurance considerations

Homeowners insurance usually provides some liquor liability coverage, but limits are typically $100,000 to $300,000, which, depending on your assets, might not be enough. Before planning a party in your home, speak to your insurance professional to review your homeowners coverage for any exclusions, conditions or limitations your policy might have that would affect your social liability risk.

Protect yourself and your guests

Remember that a good host is a responsible host. If you plan to serve alcohol at a party, promote safe alcohol consumption and take these steps to reduce your social host liability exposure:

  • Make sure you understand your state laws. These laws vary widely from state to state (see final chart). Some states do not impose any liability on social hosts. Others limit liability to injuries that occur on the host’s premises. Some extend the host’s liability to injuries that occur anywhere a guest who has consumed alcohol goes. Many states have laws that pertain specifically to furnishing alcohol to minors.
  • Consider venues other than your home for the party. Hosting your party at a restaurant or bar with a liquor license, rather than at your home, will help minimize liquor liability risks.
  • Hire a professional bartender. Most bartenders are trained to recognize signs of intoxication and are better able to limit consumption by partygoers.
  • Encourage guests to pick a designated driver who will refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages so that he or she can drive other guests home.
  • Limit your own alcohol intake as a responsible host/hostess, so that you will be better able to judge your guests’ sobriety.
  • Offer non-alcoholic beverages and always serve food. Eating and drinking plenty of water, or other non-alcoholic beverages, can help counter the effects of alcohol.
  • Do not pressure guests to drink or rush to refill their glasses when empty. And never serve alcohol to guests who are visibly intoxicated.
  • Stop serving liquor toward the end of the evening. Switch to coffee, tea and soft drinks.
  • If guests drink too much or seem too tired to drive home, call a cab, arrange a ride with a sober guest or have them sleep at your home.
  • Encourage all your guests to wear seatbelts as they drive home. Studies show that seatbelts save lives.

Be Sure to Protect Your Valuables Today!

Courtesy of iii.org

The holidays are a time of giving and receiving gifts, but would you be able to replace those gifts if they were destroyed in a fire or other disaster? A home inventory is the best way to protect your personal possessions, yet only 50 percent of homeowners said they had an inventory in a 2016 Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) survey. That’s where Know Your Stuff®, the free, award-winning home inventory app can help.

The I.I.I.’s Know Your Stuff® home inventory app allows you to enter information on mobile or desktop and syncs across all your devices so you can access it anywhere, at any time. It can help you:

  • Purchase enough insurance to replace the items you own, if they are stolen or damaged.
  • Get insurance claims settled faster.
  • Substantiate losses or charitable donations for tax purposes.
  • Keep track of items that require maintenance or repair.
  • Declutter and organize your home.

“With the average property damage and liability claim costing more than $9,000 and about one in 15 insured homes having a claim each year, it’s important for homeowners to protect their assets,” said Loretta Worters, a vice president with the I.I.I. “Renters should also consider taking a home inventory.”

To simplify the task of creating an inventory, the Know Your Stuff® app allows you to take photographs of your possessions and organize them according to the room in which the items are located.

With the Know Your Stuff® Home Inventory app, you get:

  • Secure free cloud storage of your inventory data. You can also store and manage all your insurance policy information, including contact information for your insurance professional and your policy numbers.
  • Downloadable reports for easy recordkeeping and claims filing.
  • A tool that is backed by the expertise of the I.I.I., a leading independent insurance research and communications organization.

Know Your Stuff® also allows you to keep track of multiple properties and insurance policies. An opt-in service provides integrated weather alerts for your area as well as updates and tips on how to prepare your home against severe weather.

Is Your House Insured Against Animal Damage

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You may have read the recent story featured in the I.I.I. Daily about raccoon damage and homeowners insurance. The gist: raccoons got into a house and caused $80,000 worth of damage. The homeowners were surprised to learn that their insurance wouldn’t cover any of it.

So what’s the deal with animal damage and insurance?

Homeowners insurance

Let’s start with the easy stuff. If your dog Fido rips through your couch or pees all over the wall, you’re out of luck. Standard homeowners policies won’t cover any damage to your house or personal property caused by a pet. And”pet” is a pretty broad term. Doesn’t matter if it’s a Shih Tzu or a Clydesdale horse, pets are any animal you own.

What about animals that aren’t pets, like deer or birds or – God forbid – rats? That’s where things get interesting.

Building damage: You probably aren’t covered for any damage to the building caused by birds, rodents, insects, or vermin. There also probably won’t be coverage for any nesting or infestation. Insurance policies can vary widely, however, so make sure you ask your agent what is and isn’t considered a rodent or vermin (some insurers will say raccoons are vermin, some will say they’re not). The specific details of your policy will determine your coverage.

Damage to the building from other wild animals could be covered, though. If a moose runs through the sliding door to your deck, the damaged door would be covered.

Personal property damage: Unfortunately, your personal property is probably not covered no matter what kind of animal does the damaging. If a moose runs through your sliding door and wreaks havoc on grandma’s china, then you’re covered for damage to the door, but not the china.

Liability: You go to your friend’s house and bring Fido for a dog playdate. Fido then rips through your friend’s couch. Are you covered? Yes. Homeowners liability protection will cover the damage to other people’s property caused by your pets. Just not your property. Friendship saved.

Personal auto insurance

A squirrel chews through the wiring in your car. Fido dents your door chasing after a squirrel. A moose rams your car in a fit of rage, smashing the windshield. (Why do I keep thinking of moose scenarios?)

Does personal auto insurance cover animal damage? Yes, if you have optional comprehensive coverage. If you only have collision coverage, then you’re not covered.

Collision only covers damage when a car overturns or hits another car or object. Comprehensive covers…more or less everything else: damage from falling objects, fire, explosions – and birds and animals.

So if you paid the extra premium for comprehensive coverage (like most Americans do), then you’re covered for damage from chewing squirrels, incautious Fidos, and rampaging moose (meese?).

Insurance & Water Damage

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Pop quiz: what’s one of the most common types of homeowners insurance claims? (Hint: it’s not fire.)

It’s water damage. Maybe that’s not surprising – it rains a lot in many places. But what may surprise you is that things like pipe bursts and broken appliances are increasingly the main causes of water damage in homes.

In insurance-speak, these are called “non-weather water damage claims.” Worryingly, these claims are happening more often and are getting a lot more expensive. A Best’s Review article reports that the average homeowners water damage claim is now over $6,700. Large losses (over $500,000) have doubled in number over the past three years. Non-weather water damage is now costing insurers (and their policyholders) billions in losses every year.

This is happening for several reasons. Our housing stock is aging, as is our infrastructure. More houses are being built and they’re getting bigger – many houses now have extra bathrooms and second-floor laundry rooms, which means more piping. (The story is probably different in Florida. You can read why that is here.)

But the worst part is that many – if not most – water damage claims are preventable. Inspecting pipes or conducting routine maintenance can go a long way. That’s where the internet of things (IoT) comes in. Smart devices and connected sensors installed on piping can detect leaks before they occur or before they cause too much damage. They’re basically smoke detectors, but for water.

And they work. Best’s Review noted that installing IoT devices can reduce water losses by up to 93 percent.

The Review quoted an IoT company CEO who claimed that leak detection devices could save insurers and their customers $10 billion every year.

Homeowners have admittedly been slow to install IoT to help detect leaks. But insurers are hopeful that raising awareness about the issue, offering policyholder incentives like premium discounts, and encouraging IoT installation during home construction will begin to turn the tide.

Update: Of interest, Washington state adopted a rule in 2018 that specifically mentions water monitors and water shut-off systems as permissible tools for an insurer’s risk reduction program.

Hurricane Checklist

Courtesy of iii.org

You probably make a checklist for performing home repairs, a shopping list before hitting the grocery store, or perhaps a to-do list for work assignments?but do you have a checklist for reviewing your insurance coverage? The start of hurricane season is right around the corner (June 1 ? November 30). So now’s the time to check your homeowners or renters insurance?and this handy list will make it easy to be sure you’re well-prepared in case a storm comes your way.

HOMEOWNERS COVERAGE

Check your policy limit; is it enough to rebuild your home?

Make sure to have enough coverage to completely rebuild your home in the event it is severely damaged or destroyed. And, remember, the real estate value of a house is not the same as the cost to rebuild.

Consider these homeowners coverages to help protect against the costs of rebuilding after a hurricane:

  • Extended Replacement Cost Policy ? pays an additional 20 percent or more above the policy limits.
  • Guaranteed Replacement Cost Policy ? pays the full amount to rebuild your home whatever the ultimate cost.
  • Inflation Guard ? automatically adjusts the coverage limits to reflect changes in construction costs.
  • Ordinance or Law Coverage ? pays a specified amount for rebuilding to new building codes, should your community adopt stricter codes.

Do you know everything you own and how much it’s worth?

Imagine having to re-purchase all of your furniture, clothing and other personal possessions. Now think about what that would cost. Most insurers provide coverage for personal possessions?approximately 50 to 70 percent of the amount of insurance you have on the structure of your home. Is this enough? The best way to determine what you actually need is to conduct a home inventory?a detailed list of your belongings and their estimated value. The I.I.I.’s free Know Your Stuff ? Home Inventory tool can help.

Check what type of insurance you have for your belongings:

  • Replacement Cost Coverage ? pays what it would cost to replace your personal possessions at their current value.
  • Actual Cash Value Coverage ? pays to replace your personal possessions only at their depreciated value.

Does your policy provide enough Additional Living Expenses coverage?

Additional Living Expenses (ALE) coverage kicks in if your home is rendered uninhabitable as the result of a hurricane or other insured disaster. ALE covers the extra costs involved in living away from home?hotel bills, restaurant meals and other expenses, over and above your customary living expenses?incurred while your home is being repaired or rebuilt. If you rent out part of your home, this coverage also reimburses you for lost rental income.

Check that the coverage is adequate for your needs:

  • ALE coverage is generally equal to 20 percent of the amount of insurance coverage that you have on the structure of your house; however, most insurers offer the option of higher coverage limits.
  • Many policies provide ALE reimbursements only for a specific amount of time; make sure you’re comfortable with the time limits in your policy.

What is the percentage of the hurricane/windstorm deductible stated in your policy?

Insurers in every coastal state from Maine to Texas include separate deductibles for hurricanes and/or windstorms in their homeowners policies. Unlike the standard “dollar deductible” on an auto or home policy, a hurricane or windstorm deductible is usually expressed as a percentage. It is clearly stated on the Declarations (front) page of your homeowners policy.

Hurricane and windstorm deductibles generally range from 1 to 5 percent of the insured value of the structure of your home. A hurricane deductible is applied only to hurricanes whereas a windstorm deductible applies to any type of wind. If your policy has a hurricane deductible, it will clearly state the specific “trigger” that would cause the deductible to go into effect.

Keep in mind:

  • If you live in an area at high risk for hurricanes, your hurricane deductible may be a higher percentage.
  • Depending on your insurer and the state where you live, you may have the option of paying more money in premiums in exchange for a lower deductible.
  • A deductible is basically the amount subtracted from an insurance payout. If you have a high hurricane or windstorm deductible consider putting aside the additional money you may need to rebuild your home.

What disasters does your insurance policy cover?

Standard homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for hurricanes, wind, theft, fire, explosion, lightning strikes and a host of other disasters. However, all policies also list exclusions?such as for flood or earthquake?which are NOT covered by the policy. Get to know the exclusions in your policy and either talk to your Insurance Professional about purchasing separate coverage, or be prepared to pay the cost of those damages out-of-pocket.

Important additional coverages to consider in hurricane-prone areas:

  • Sewer Back-Up Coverage ? Can be purchased either as a separate policy or as an endorsement to an existing homeowners policy. Sewer backups and damage from runoff water caused by major downpours are not covered under standard homeowners nor by flood insurance.
  • Flood Insurance ? Separate flood insurance is available from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from some private insurance companies.

But, wait, what about your flood insurance policy?

People tend to underestimate the risk of flooding, but 90 percent of all natural disasters include some form of flooding?especially hurricanes! If you live in a flood zone, or a hurricane-prone area, a separate flood insurance policy is a must. But it’s equally important to understand what it actually covers.

An NFIP flood insurance policy provides coverage for up to $250,000 in replacement cost coverage on the structure of the home and $100,000 in actual cash value coverage for personal possessions. Coverage for basements is limited, so make sure you understand what is considered a basement, as well as what is and is not covered in that area of the house. The NFIP policy also does not include coverage for ALE.

Additional tips about flood insurance:

  • There is a 30-day waiting period for a flood insurance policy to go into effect so don’t wait until a storm is imminent to apply for coverage.
  • The NFIP offers a range of deductibles; the deductible you choose will affect the cost of the policy and the amount of money you would receive if you file a claim.
  • If you require a higher amount of coverage than is offered by the NFIP, consider getting excess flood insurance which is available from private insurance companies.

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