Tuesday's tornadoes caused “tens of millions of dollars” in insured losses across Oklahoma, but the losses could be much higher, an insurance industry spokesman said Wednesday.
More exact estimates won't be available for some time because adjusters are having some difficulty reaching all the areas that were hit by the tornado outbreak, said Jerry Johns, president of Southwestern Insurance Information Services.
“Preliminary estimated insured losses from the tornadoes and high winds in Oklahoma are going to initially be in the tens of millions of dollars, but those numbers could be several hundred million dollars when all is said and done,” Johns said.
Wind damage claims often are slow to be reported because many homeowners may not yet be aware of roof damage, he said.
“We stress these are probably just the first wave of claims to be filed and that number could go much higher,” he said.
State Insurance Commissioner John Doak on Wednesday declared an emergency, which allows emergency insurance adjusters to receive temporary licensing to work claims related to Tuesday's storms.
“A number of individual Oklahomans and businesses will need the assistance of their insurers to recover from damage caused by Tuesday's storms,” Doak said. “This order will help expedite that process.”
Johns said other recent tornadoes have limited the personnel insurers can bring to Oklahoma.
“Companies are going to be spread thin with the event in Missouri and the southeastern U.S., but they prepare for these types of events and will have specially trained units on the site as soon as it is safe to enter,” he said. “The best advice for storm victims is to make minor repairs when it is safe to do so and call their insurance agent or company immediately.”
Farmers Insurance, one of the state's largest providers of property and casualty insurance, has stationed a mobile command center at Piedmont First United Methodist Church, 2525 N Piedmont Road.
The 46-foot bus offers satellite-linked cellphones and laptops, water, cold and hot drinks, and emergency supplies.
Those in need of immediate assistance are welcome to supplies or use of equipment to contact family and friends, said John Lucido, state executive director for Farmers in Oklahoma.
Johns said people should not be concerned about the ability of insurers to pay claims.
“Companies reserve for these kind of major weather events and they did when the F-5 tornado hit Moore and Oklahoma City in 1999, which was a $1 billion loss for insurers and tragic loss for their customers,” he said.
Producers who lost livestock in the storms were urged to sign up for assistance through the Oklahoma Farm Service Agency's Livestock Indemnity Program.
WHAT TO DO AFTER A STORM
• Call your insurance Agent or your company's toll-free claim filing telephone number to report property damage.
• Make minor repairs to damaged property to prevent further damage or looting. Save receipts. Do not make major repairs until an adjuster has the opportunity to inspect the property.
• Photographs or video documentation of damaged property is helpful but not required.
• Do not dispose of damaged personal property until an adjuster has had the opportunity to look at it.
• If flooding has occurred, disconnect all electronic equipment and electrical appliances and move them to a dry place.
• Try and move damaged household items to a dry area.
• If damage is extensive, be certain your property is identified with your address. Place a plywood sign with your address and the name of your insurance company in front of the property.
• If you're unable to stay at the site, leave a number where you can be reached.
• Carefully select a contractor to complete repairs on your property, once a final settlement has been made by your insurance company. Ask the contractor for references and verify those references. Be cautious of a contractor who demands full payment for the work upfront.
To see a video about insurers arriving in Piedmont area, go to NewsOK.com and search “insurance.”