Severe Thunderstorms, Tornadoes Pummel Mississippi; Agents Expect Claims

April 7, 2005

Mississippi homeowners began contacting their insurance companies after severe thunderstorms, spawning powerful tornadoes, pummeled Mississippi from top to bottom, destroying or damaging at least 75 homes and ripping away the roof of a high school.

“April is Mississippi’s peak severe weather month,” Jim Butch, a spokesman for the National Weather Service said. “Severe weather has been known to continue right into May.”

The most severe damage occurred in Rankin County, where residents took shelter in local churches and the American Red Cross set up temporary housing quarters. Smith, Hancock, Lawrence, Lincoln, Pike, Scott, Sunflower and Waltham counties also had severe weather.

Local insurance companies told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger they expected the majority of claims to roll in over the next few days.

Michael Brewer, a Nashville spokesman for the Southern region of Allstate Insurance Co., said Allstate agents had received about 20 claims from clients in the Jackson and McComb areas. Claims adjusters were dispatched.

“It’s extremely early for us at this point to receive a huge amount of calls,” Brewer said.

Likewise, Kim Moore, an agent at Albert D. Moore Agency in Pearl, said calls typically start the day after a hard storm unless heavy damage has occurred.

“If it’s absolutely a tornado and a tree fell on the house is when a lot of the claims come in immediately,” Moore said.

Jack Williams, senior vice president of claims for Mississippi Farm Bureau Insurance Co. in Jackson, told the Clarion-Ledger the company’s agents had received several claims from across the state.

Damage from a single occurrence of bad weather will not cause a company to seek an increase on homeowner’s rates, Insurance Commissioner George Dale said.

Insurance companies can seek rate increases at three-year intervals, depending on their past performances.

At least three storms, two of which produced confirmed tornadoes, have rocked the state since January. On Wednesday, Gov. Haley Barbour declared a state of emergency, the second he has issued in less than a week.

Butch said officials should have a better idea in the next day or two about how many actual tornadoes touched down by measuring the size of the paths they left.

Richard Coglin, Pike County Emergency Management director said five Pike County houses were destroyed, 13 sustained major damage and five others had minor damage. He estimated at least 20 people are displaced.

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