Insured losses from the Memorial Day tornadoes have passed an estimated $550 million, and the tally is still underway to determine how many tornado-damaged properties were uninsured.
The opening of federal aid assistance centers in the area last week should mean a clearer picture of how many tornado survivors had coverage and how many did not. Experts say the number of uninsured with home damage will be high and recovery from the damage could take years.
“We will likely be helping with repairs for not just in the next few months, but over the next few years,” said Norm Miozzi, executive director for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Dayton, which is seeking to help homeowners without insurance with rebuilding.
Claims from the Memorial Day tornadoes are so far at an estimated $550 million in insured property damage to homes, businesses and vehicles. A large number of properties that were hit are believed to have been uninsured or underinsured.
The data comes from the first in what will be a series of surveys of insurance claims. By late summer or fall there will be a more accurate picture, since tornado damage claims are complex and take time, said
Bryan Wood, catastrophic analyst with Assurant in Springfield.
“It wouldn’t surprise me to see the insured loss end up somewhere in the $700 to $800 million range,” Wood said.
Now that a federal disaster is declared, residents facing tornado damage are encouraged to apply with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for help rebuilding their homes and lives.
FEMA disaster assistance may include grants to help pay for temporary housing, emergency home repairs, uninsured and underinsured personal property losses as well as medical, dental and funeral expenses caused by the disaster, along with other serious disaster-related expenses.
The U.S. Small Business Administration also offers low interest loans for businesses, homeowners and renters to help those hit by the disaster.
Those loans can be used for a variety of tornado-related costs, including paying off debt on an uninsured car, said Dorris A. Evans, public affairs specialist for the SBA.
Natasha Woods, 31, said her car was destroyed when the tornado hit her Woodland Hills apartment complex in Trotwood. She had let her auto insurance lapse when she fell on financial hard times and so she has no coverage for the $9,000 she owes on her car loan. Woods, who is seeking help from FEMA, also did not have renter’s insurance.
“I lost everything. My apartment, my car,” said Brown. She said looters stole items from her apartment after the tornado as well. “I’m still liable for the car.”
Brookville resident Pam Bonfig has had a different experience. She said Travelers Home Insurance has already paid to replace her roof, front and back patios and a privacy fence that were damaged in the tornado that hit her Brookmoor Drive home. She had just bought a 2013 Ford Focus nine days earlier and it too was destroyed, but was covered 100 percent by her car insurance, she said.
Given how many people were uninsured and hit by the tornado, Miozzi said Habitat for Humanity is working on an plan to use whatever funding might be available through FEMA and partner that with donated materials, donated labor and other funding to help homeowners who need help with repairs or rebuilds.
“Our hope is that we can serve as many families as possible, to help them get their lives back together,” Miozzi said.
He said they still need to identify which families will be helped by insurance and which will need other help.
A preliminary damage assessment that was part of the state’s request for FEMA aid found about 52 to 66 percent of properties damaged were insured. However, that was based on a preliminary survey in which staff knocked on doors in the affected areas. There was no one home at many of the damaged homes who could say what the home insurance status was.
“We’ll have a better look down the road,” said Leo Skinner, a FEMA spokesman.
The uninsured loss from the tornado is much harder to estimate than insured losses, according to Woods. He said the general rule of thumb is that uninsured damages are about 10 percent of the insured value of damages.
“So at at the current at the current number of $550 million, you’d be looking at about $55 million uninsured. But that’s a rule of thumb. It varies quite a bit,” Wood said.
Wood said there will likely be the highest concentration of uninsured losses in Trotwood, Old North Dayton and Northridge.
“These homes have been passed down through generations and don’t have a mortgage so they are no longer required to have insurance,” Wood said. “I talked to quite a few people in those areas who didn’t have insurance.”
State Farm agent Nathan Baker, who has an agency in Huber Heights, said he expects to still be seeing more insurance claims come in over the coming months. Some of the damage wasn’t immediately apparent and others are just getting to filing a claim.
“Maybe some of them felt bad calling in damage those first couple of days when they saw other people’s damage,” Baker said.
With insurance claims, Baker said one of the challenges is that there are contractors knocking on doors trying to sign people up for repairs, such as roofing, and he said it’s important to get needed approvals from your insurance agent first and to research the quality of a contractor.
“The thing we’re really struggling with is warning people not to just pick a random company that comes up to your house,” Baker said.
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