Oklahoma Tornado Damage Could Reach $5 Billion

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak gave his cost estimate for the tornado, which killed 24 people and destroyed 15,000 homes on May 20.

by Dylan Scott / May 30, 2013
Demolished autos and extensive damage to the Moore Medical building show the effects of the EF-5 tornado that hit the area on May 20. Photo courtesy of George Armstrong/FEMA

The total damage from the tornado that swept through Moore, Okla., last week could reach $5 billion, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak said Thursday.

It is too early to give a specific figure from the tornado, which killed 24 people and injured more than 300 on May 20, Doak told reporters during a conference call. The damages could range from $500 million to $5 billion, he said, though he offered the Joplin, Mo, tornado and its $3.3 billion in damages as a benchmark.

The tornado impacted property in 16 counties, Doak says. An estimated 15,000 homes were destroyed, with values ranging from $50,000 to $200,000. The 1.3-mile-wide twister, which had top winds reaching more than 200 mph, was on the ground for nearly 40 minutes and crossed 17 miles before dissipating.

Two dozen people were killed, including 10 children, making the tornado the ninth-deadliest in Oklahoma history. The tornado, an EF5, the highest on the Enhanced Fujita scale, hit Moore 14 years after another EF5 ravaged the area, killing 41 people and causing more than $1 billion in damage.

Doak referred to Oklahoma’s long history with tornadoes—the state averages nearly 50 per year—when asked about insurance fraud. “This isn’t Oklahoma’s first rodeo,” he said. The insurance department didn’t have an estimate on the number of insurance claims filed thus far, but Chief Actuary Frank Stone said the state was not aware of any specific instances of fraud.

More than 30,000 people were affected by the tornado, and many noted that the homes in Moore had not been outfitted with storm shelters despite the area's recent experience with catastrophic storms. Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis recently told CNN he planned to introduce an ordinance to require the city’s houses to be equipped with such safe rooms.

This article was originally published by Governing.com.

Platforms & Programs