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Wednesday, 19 June 2013 21:41

Oklahoma Insurance Department Says $470 Million in Claims Filed Due to May Tornadoes

The total number of tornado-related insurance claims filed by Oklahomans has climbed to more than 60,300 since May 19, the Oklahoma Insurance Department reported on June 11. The filings represent insured losses of more than $470 million, including 29,072 homeowners claims, 28,056 auto claims and 1,849 commercial property claims from the devastating tornadoes that hit Oklahoma on May 19-20 and May 30–31.

“These numbers are already staggering, and this is just the beginning,” said Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak. “Many of the victims haven’t received their entire settlement checks yet, so that payment number will continue to go up for a while. This is something the state of Oklahoma is going to be dealing with for a long time. Those affected by the storms need to know that we’re here to help, for as long as it takes.”

The National Weather Service has blamed the twisters generated that week with 31 deaths in Oklahoma and Texas. Damage estimates run as high as $6 billion for that earlier set of storms.

“Our responsibility is clear and our commitment to the citizens of Oklahoma is strong during this devastating time,” said Doak. “We are continuing to come up with ways to address consumer concerns and provide united support. The victims can rest assured that we will be here to help until the last claim is filed.”

Commissioner Doak issued an emergency declaration allowing emergency claims adjusters to obtain temporary licenses to expedite the insurance claims process and provide immediate assistance to impacted consumers. Licensed agents and adjusters are also required to obtain an identification badge from the OID office in Oklahoma City before entering the tornado-damaged areas. The requirement is aimed at protecting consumers from unlicensed or unscrupulous characters attempting to take advantage of them.

Moore, OK, was hit hard May 19-20. The tornado killed 24 people, including several elementary students. The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management says a total of 1,248 structures were destroyed by the tornado. The May 20 tornado was classified as an EF5 twister with winds of at least 200 mph-the first EF5 tornado of 2013.

Scientists concluded the storm was a rare and extraordinarily powerful type of twister known as an EF5, ranking it at the top of the scale used to measure tornado strength. Those twisters are capable of lifting reinforced buildings off the ground, hurling cars like missiles and stripping trees completely free of bark.

The Oklahoma Insurance Department says the financial cost of the tornado could exceed $2 billion, because of the size and duration of the storm. The disaster zone stretches more than 17 miles and the tornado was on the ground for 40 minutes. It measured 1.3 miles wide at some points.

On May 30, more severe storms spawned a dozen reported tornadoes in Oklahoma and Arkansas, injuring at least five people and sending residents scrambling for cover 10 days after a powerful twister killed 24 people in Moore, OK.Then, on May 31, another tornado that swept through Oklahoma was reported to be the widest tornado in American history, the National Weather Service said.

The El Reno, OK, tornado scraped out a damage path up to 2.6 miles wide and 16.2 miles long, a swath at points wider and longer than Manhattan. The storm broke the record held by a 2.5-mile-wide twister in Hallam, NE. The number of people killed in that tornado was reported at 23, including the lives of three storm chasers and children. The twister was also rated an EF-5, the highest possible.

Researchers don’t know why the twister got as big and powerful as it did, and its strength wasn’t immediately apparent as it scoured a rural area, leaving few of the physical clues that help determine wind speeds.The storm system caused five tornadoes to touch down in central Oklahoma and caused flash flooding.

On June 2, authorities in neighboring Missouri confirmed at least three other deaths in flooding triggered by the violent storms on May 31.

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