Insurers: Storms of 2011 among most costly ever

Kansas City StarMay 17, 2012 

Last spring’s storms — including deadly tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala. — ranked among the most damaging events to property in U.S. history, an insurance industry report said Wednesday.

Collectively, 2011’s tornadoes, hail and winds inflicted $21.3 billion in insured property damage in a few months, the report from the New York-based Insurance Industry Institute said.

The total ranks fourth, behind the $24 billion associated with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the $25 billion in losses from Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and the $47.6 billion in damage from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“You could think about it as a hurricane that lasted two months and hit the interior of the United States,” said economist Robert Hartwig, who is president of the insurance industry group.

About a tenth of the nation’s property losses last spring came in Missouri during the week of the Joplin tornado, which took 161 lives and accounted for most the state’s property losses.

Missouri insurance officials have pegged insured losses directly from the Joplin tornado at $1.9 billion, adding that $1.5 billion had been paid so far.

Commercial damage was unusually heavy that week, particularly as the Joplin tornado ripped through a third of the city, destroying businesses, schools and a hospital. Losses to commercial insurance buyers accounted for nearly two-thirds of the total losses in the state that week. Missouri homeowners’ losses from the storms that week accounted for a little less than a third.

“Typically you see that ratio reversed,” Hartwig said.

Damage across 19 states that week reached $6.9 billion, including $255 million in Kansas, according to the institute’s report. It made the week more damaging than Hurricane Rita, which struck shortly after Katrina in 2005.

Similarly, property damage across 13 states in one week last April — the week that 340 died in tornadoes mostly in the Tuscaloosa, Ala., area — reached $7.3 billion.

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