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Spate of tornadoes hit homeowners, private auto insurers

Claims are pouring in after tornadoes ripped through the Midwest, Great Plains, Ohio Valley and other parts of the U.S. amid a storm season with activity well above what the country has seen in recent years.

There have already been about 1,000 preliminary reports of tornadoes in the U.S. so far in 2019, according to data from the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center and National Climatic Data Center. The country experiences fewer than 1,300 tornadoes during an average year.

Andy Foster, an NWS meteorologist, characterized this year's season as "very active," adding that it has also been unique as many different parts of the U.S. have been impacted by tornadoes.

Tornadoes have a classification index, the Enhanced Fujita scale, which designates the strongest tornado with winds in excess of 200 miles per hour as EF-5 and the weakest tornado with winds between 65 and 85 miles per hour as EF-0.

The tornado that touched down in Linwood, Kan., on May 28 was confirmed as an EF-4, meaning its wind speed fell between 166 and 200 miles per hour. Foster said the powerful twister was indicative of an active season.

"That's not a common occurrence," Foster said. "Those are usually far and few between ... so obviously that's a more extreme event for sure."

The second half of May saw 14 consecutive days with tornadoes reported somewhere in the U.S. This broke the old record of 11 straight days with tornadic activity, according to preliminary data from the Storm Prediction Center.

So far this year there have been about 7,800 severe storm reports, which included tornadoes, wind and hail, Foster added.

SNL Image

SNL Image

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. is the largest homeowners insurer in the states hit by tornadoes this year; it also wrote the most private automobile physical damage business across those states.

According to a written statement from a company spokesperson, State Farm has received approximately 6,110 total homeowners claims across Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Indiana and Nebraska related to the May 27 and 28 severe weather outbreaks in those states. In Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Nebraska and Colorado, State Farm recorded approximately 5,220 total auto claims from those storms.

State Farm received approximately 1,030 total homeowners claims across Illinois and Missouri related to severe weather on May 22. There were also 310 automobile claims filed in Missouri for the same time period.

In Oklahoma, a severe weather event on May 25 caused State Farm to incur approximately 790 homeowners claims.

The claim numbers were last updated May 31.

State Farm's spokesperson said that it was difficult to compare damage or severity of prior storms and seasons because each has its own unique "challenges and characteristics." He also noted that the most impacted type of insurance would be dependent both on location and impact of a given storm.

"Both homeowners and business owners could be impacted if damage is widespread," the spokesperson said.