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by Steve Campbell on Mar 06, 2014

Since 2000, Texas has sustained $16.9 billion in insured losses from tornadoes, thunderstorms and hail, the most in the nation. No. 2 Oklahoma had $9.8 billion in losses over the same period.

Oklahoma and Texas led the nation in costliest natural disasters in 2013, according to a report by the Insurance Information Institute.

The deadly tornadoes of May 2013 contributed to Oklahoma recording the nation’s highest insurance payouts at nearly $2 billion. Texas was No. 2 with $1.5 billion in losses.

All told, U.S. natural disaster insurance payouts came to $12.79 billion in 2013, with $10.27 billion related to tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. The rest was due to events such as winter storms and wildfires, the report said.

Other states sustaining big losses were Colorado ($907 million), Minnesota ($845 million) and Nebraska ($773 million).

Accounting for nearly a third of the insured losses in Texas was a massive hailstorm that caused $500 million in damage in the Amarillo area on May 28, said Mark Hanna of the Insurance Council of Texas.

Other costly events in the state included a June 15 swarm of tornadoes in North Texas ($200 million), a May 2 hailstorm in Marble Falls ($50 million) and Oct. 31 flooding in Austin ($31 million), Hanna said.

The explosion at a West fertilizer plant caused $100 million in damage, he said.

From 2000 to 2013, Texas led the nation in insured losses from tornadoes, thunderstorms and hail, with $16.9 billion in losses. No. 2 Oklahoma suffered $9.8 billion in losses over the same period, according to a presentation by Dr. Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, at the recent National Tornado Summit in Oklahoma City.

An analysis of U.S. natural disasters since 1983 found that 36 percent of all claim payouts in any given year were linked to tornado damage, the report said.

When it comes to natural disasters, Texas gets hit with everything except large earthquakes, said Mark Hanna of the Insurance Council of Texas.

“Hail, damaging winds, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and fire. Texas really does get it all,” he said.

Hanna said that the wide range of threats is what makes homeowners insurance so costly in Texas where the average premium in 2011 was $1,578, third highest in the U.S. behind Florida ($1,933) and Louisiana ($1,672).

“Insured losses run hand in hand with these events. If people try to figure out why homeowners insurance rates are where they are, that’s the reason,” Hanna said.

“Florida got hit by four hurricanes back in 2004 and that had a huge impact on their premiums. Louisiana got him by Katrina in 2005. I would not be surprised if Oklahoma doesn’t take our place at No. 3 because they have been raked by tornadoes,” he said.

Since 1953, Texas has led the nation in federal disaster declarations with 88, followed by California (79) and Oklahoma (78), according to the new report.

Hurricanes have been the most destructive forces in recent years, with Hurricane Sandy causing more than $16 billion in damage in New York and New Jersey in 2012. Hurricane Katrina, which hit Louisiana in 2005, caused $48.7 billion in damage, making it the most costly in U.S. history, according to the report.

In 2011, when Texas was ravaged by destructive wildfires in Bastrop and Possum Kingdom, the state led the nation with $3.64 billion in damage.

The most costly storm in Texas history was Hurricane Ike which caused nearly $13 billion in damage in 2008, Hanna said.

Hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires might garner bigger headlines, but hail is the most consistent cause of damage in Texas, Hanna said, noting that the most costly was the $1.62 billion in damage suffered on May 5, 1995 in the Fort Worth area.

“Hail amounts to about 40 percent of the windstorm claims in Texas. Hail is the big damaging insurance event. If there is one area in Texas that can relate to hail it’s Dallas-Fort Worth.

“You get pounded time after time. There may not be a neighborhood in DFW that has not been impacted by a hailstorm in the last 10 years,” Hanna said.

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