Power Returns Slowly in Okla.; Losses from Storm Could Rise to $35M

December 13, 2007

The lights are going back on slowly in Oklahoma after a massive ice storm, the insured losses from which could reach $35 million, an insurance industry trade group said.

“Insurance claims from ice damage are often slow in coming in which prompts us to conservatively predict damage at this point the claim filing process,” according to Jerry Johns, president of Southwestern Insurance Information Service, an industry trade group responsible for Oklahoma and Texas.

“It is quite possible these insured damages estimates will increase as people have the opportunity to closely inspect their property,” he said.

“Most of the damage will be to homes and business property with a smattering of vehicle claims resulting from traffic accidents,” he said.

About 498,000 homes and business still had no power Dec. 12 in Oklahoma, suffering its worst power outage on record, the Associated Press reported. That was down from a peak of some 618,000 customers a day earlier, but utility officials said it could be a week to 10 days before power is fully restored.

“We’re relying on people to look after each other,” Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said. “At the end of the day, this comes down to the strength of your people. … People who have electricity ought to be sharing it with people who don’t.”

Temperatures in Oklahoma could reach the 40s today, the weather service said. By late Friday, however, another storm could bring 2 to 4 inches of snow to parts of the region, according to the Associated Press.

Ice up to 11/2 inches thick has glazed much of the central Plains and Midwest this week. At least 25 deaths – mostly traffic accidents – have been blamed on the storm system since it developed last weekend.

Officials in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma had declared states of emergency. President Bush declared a federal emergency in Oklahoma Dec. 11, ordering government aid to supplement state and local efforts.

The 25 deaths blamed on the weather include 15 in Oklahoma, four in Kansas, three in Missouri, two in Michigan and one in Nebraska.

Johns, of SIIS, said those who have sustained damage should call their “insurance agent immediately and begin making minor repairs to prevent further damage.” He also advised claimants to save repair receipts since most insurers will reimburse for minor repairs.

Do not make major repairs until an adjuster has inspected the damage, Johns said. There are ample adjusters in Oklahoma to service their needs of their customers.

“When selecting a contractor to complete repairs be cautious of one who asks for full payment for the work upfront,” he said. “Ask the contractor for references and verify those references.

“The majority of contractors are reputable business people, but storm-damaged areas often attract unscrupulous contractors,” Johns noted.

Sources: Southwestern Insurance Information Service; Associated Press

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