Insurance company representatives from around the nation are helping sort through the ruins of nearly 200 homes and 53 businesses damaged or destroyed in a mid-October northern Indiana tornado.
More than $10 million in losses and several thousand claims, largely from the Nappanee area, are expected from the storm by insurers across Indiana.
Winds of 160 mph ripped apart dozens of homes and damaged three recreational vehicle businesses when the Oct. 18 storm blew through the community of some 7,000 people about 20 miles southeast of South Bend. Police said five people suffered minor injuries.
“Lots of us (have) never been through this,” said Patrick Taylor, a State Farm claim representative from Pennsylvania. “It’s difficult to put yourself in that position … The empathy is very important. Very important.”
Taylor said claims representatives need to listen to the victims’ stories first, then help them find basic necessities like food, clothing and emergency money. After that, they have to explain insurance policy procedures and scope out the damage.
He was one of at least 15 people who visited Nappanee part of State Farm’s catastrophe team. Taylor stood outside Nathan and LaWanda Borkholder’s one-story home, which lost its roof in the storm. Its living room was strewn with crumbled bricks, wall panels and dust.
Nathan Borkholder said they heard the tornado siren that night and made it out of their bedroom and into their hallway before deciding to stay put.
“Even two to three seconds further, we would have been in the kitchen, and we had chunks of glass flying through the walls,” he said.
Damage assessment data is transferred to a computer program that spits out a final estimate, Taylor said. After that, the policyholder can receive the appropriate payment, though it’s hard to say how long it’ll be before their home and property are all restored.
Overall, State Farm _ which insures one in four houses in the area _ has been handling more than 100 claims in the Nappanee area as a result of the storm, spokeswoman Missy Lundberg said.
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