Damage from December Ice Storm in Oklahoma Nearing $180M

May 6, 2008

The cost of damage to Oklahoma homes, businesses and infrastructure from the December 2007 historic ice storm is approaching $180 million, state officials said.

Businesses and homeowners have filed more than 30,000 insurance claims totaling more than $54 million in damage related to the storm, according to the Oklahoma Insurance Department.

“Even though individual claims are not very large — on average they were $1,000 to $5,000 — there were just so many of them,” State Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland said.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management said 312 applicants, including cities, counties and certain agencies, have so far requested an estimated $125 million in federal reimbursement funds, nearly $80 million of which is for debris removal, agency spokeswoman Michelann Ooten told the Tulsa World.

Investor-owned utilities like Oklahoma Gas & Electric and American Electric Power-Public Service Company of Oklahoma, are not eligible for federal disaster assistance, Ooten said. The state’s rural electric cooperatives and water districts are eligible, however, and the co-ops have sought more than $37 million in assistance.

Officials said “response costs,” including overtime for firefighters and police officers, reached about $7 million.

Ooten said figures from her agency are preliminary and can change as municipal applicants continue to work with FEMA teams and state officials.

“That $125 million could go up or down,” she said.

Oklahoma’s competitive insurance market, a robust stock market and fewer intense storms than projected in recent years have helped keep insurance costs low in the state, Holland said.

“But every time it goes down, there’s going to be some period where it goes up again,” she said.

Recent tornadoes and national economic problems could affect prices, she said.

“But we’re not seeing that yet, and we still have a really competitive market and prices,” she said.

At least 29 people lost their lives in the Dec. 8 storm, which knocked out electric power to more than 640,000 homes and businesses.

Information from: Tulsa World, www.tulsaworld.com

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