Tornado insurance 101

Mon Oct 23 2023

Yellow and black tornado shelter sign on a wall

Every homeowner in the United States should be concerned about tornadoes. While they’re more common in some places than others, tornadoes can happen anytime and anywhere. What happens when your home is damaged or destroyed by a tornado? Will your homeowners insurance provide any relief from the financial distress? 

Thankfully, the answer is yes – most home insurance policies that do not specifically exclude wind cover windstorm damage, including the damage caused by these violently rotating columns of air. And they typically do this without having to worry about additional tornado insurance.

What is tornado insurance? 

Tornado insurance isn’t actually something most homeowners have to worry about. You don’t need an additional policy, endorsement  or rider because tornadoes are generally covered under homeowners insurance

That’s a really good thing, too. Tornados can be highly destructive. These short but severe windstorms can destroy buildings, flip cars, and create deadly flying debris. They can cause damage to roofs, windows, siding, and garage doors as well as the contents of your home. Even homes outside the direct path of a tornado can sustain significant damage from the surrounding severe storm.

The U.S. experiences more tornadoes than any other country in the world. About 1,000 tornadoes per year are reported nationwide, on average. In 2022, there were 1,331 tornadoes in the U.S. Moreover, wind damage is one of the most common home insurance claims

Having homeowners insurance can help you make repairs and may even help you with temporary living expenses if you have to move out while your home is repaired. 

How does homeowners insurance cover tornado damage?

Homeowners insurance helps you repair, replace, rebuild, and recover financially when your property or belongings are damaged or destroyed by a tornado or a major windstorm. 

The following types of coverage can apply to tornado damage.

  • Dwelling coverage (Coverage A): The dwelling coverage in your policy pays to repair and replace your damaged home and may even pay out the value of your home if it is a total loss.

  • Other structures coverage (Coverage B): Any detached structures on your property (sheds, fences, detached garages) are also typically covered if a tornado damages them. Some policies also pay for damage to trees and shrubs.

  • Personal property coverage (Coverage C): The personal property coverage, or contents coverage, in your home insurance policy pays for damage to your insured personal property, such as furniture, clothing, and artwork.

  • Loss of use coverage (Coverage D): Your policy usually pays for additional living expenses if you must live somewhere else while your home is being repaired or rebuilt after a tornado. This coverage may help pay for hotel bills, food, and certain other living expenses (as long as they are above your current cost of living). 

Once you’ve paid your policy’s deductible, your homeowners insurance policy usually reimburses you for the extent of the damage up to the total insured value of the dwelling itself and the personal property category’s coverage limit.

What is a wind/hail deductible?

Home insurance typically includes a deductible, or the amount of money you pay out of pocket when you make an insurance claim. But some have additional deductibles, like a wind/hail deductible. It functions much like a standard deductible, except it only applies when you have damage caused by perils like:

  • Tornado.

  • Wind.

  • Hail.

  • Wind-driven rain events. 

If you’ve got a wind/hail deductible on your homeowners insurance policy, it’s likely triggered when your home sustains damage from these or similar events. 

Wind/hail deductibles are typically a flat dollar amount or a percentage of your dwelling coverage. Flat dollar amounts may start at $500 and go up to $10,000. Percentage deductibles are typically 1% to 5% of the home’s insured value, so if your home is insured for $250,000 and you have a 2% wind/hail deductible, you would have to pay the first $6,250 to repair damage to your home before your insurance coverage kicks in.

While a higher deductible usually translates to lower premiums, you want to choose an amount you can comfortably afford if you have to make a claim with little notice.

Wind/hail deductibles aren’t allowed in all states. They’re most common in areas at high risk for wind or hail damage, like the states in Tornado Alley, as well as parts of the Great Plains and the Midwest.

What happens if my home gets destroyed by a tornado?

After a tornado hits your home, you’ll have a lot of cleanup and recovery to do. Whether your home is wholly or partially destroyed, it’s important to know the potential dangers and take appropriate safety precautions. 

The most important thing to remember is that you don’t want to return home until authorities say it’s safe to do so. A tornado can damage or weaken essential structural components of your home. This means returning to your home may expose you to dangers, like: 

  • Electrical hazards

  • Carbon monoxide exposure.

  • Hazardous material

  • Fire.

Even when you’ve been given the all-clear, you want to be careful around damaged buildings. Exit your home if you hear any shifting sounds or odd noises.

If there is any damage to your home, you need to shut off natural gas, propane tanks, and electrical power. If it’s dark, use a flashlight rather than a candle to light your way. If the smell of gas is present or you suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, leave the house immediately, and notify the gas company and the fire department immediately.  

Take photographs and videos of the damage before searching it or cleaning it up. This is essential to ensure that your homeowners insurance claim is handled appropriately.  

When you go through your property, beware of dangers and protect yourself and your family. According to the Centers for Disease Control, you should:

  • Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves, and gloves when handling or walking on or near debris.

  • Look out for exposed nails and broken glass.

  • Never touch downed power lines or any objects that are in contact with them. Report electrical hazards to the police and utility company.

  • Cooperate fully with public safety officials.

Contact your insurance company immediately to start the process for filing a homeowners insurance claim as soon as you can. Here are some tips for filing a tornado damage insurance claim. 

  • Contact your insurance company. Your insurer’s representative can tell you how to secure your property, conduct an inventory of damaged possessions, and anything else you need to do to begin the claims process, like submitting a first notice of loss. Kin can also provide you with vendors who can help you repair your property.

  • Keep good records. Receipts and other documentation will be important for expediting your insurance claim and ensuring you receive appropriate reimbursement. Separate damaged property from undamaged property, and start a detailed list of what’s been lost. 

  • Get estimates from professionals. Be sure to get detailed estimates in writing and follow the insurance company’s instructions so you are reimbursed appropriately. Scammers are prolific after a large-scale storm. Look for reputable contractors who are licensed, insured, and experienced in your community.

Above all, be sure to cooperate fully with the insurance investigation. An insurance adjuster will likely visit your damaged or destroyed home within a day or two. If you want your claim to be settled quickly, be sure to be onsite with the adjuster and cooperate with all aspects of the investigation. 

Is homeowners insurance more expensive in Tornado Alley? 

Tornadoes are considered more likely in Tornado Alley, typically classified as portions of:

  • Texas.

  • Oklahoma.

  • Nebraska.

  • Kansas.

  • South Dakota.

  • Iowa.

  • Missouri.

  • Illinois.

However, many experts believe that Tornado Alley has shifted, which means more homeowners may be at risk. Because an increased risk for severe weather can increase your homeowners insurance premiums, it is safe to assume that many homeowners in these states pay more for coverage than residents of other states. 

That said, there are a lot of other factors that contribute to the cost of homeowners insurance. While the weather is one of the most significant, insurance companies also base premiums on other factors, including:

  • The age and size of your home.

  • The materials used to build your home. 

  • The crime statistics in your neighborhood

  • The value of your home and belongings. 

If you live in Tornado Alley or any other area susceptible to tornadoes, you can save money on your home insurance by raising your standard deductible and, if required, choosing a substantial wind/hail deductible. But be careful not to raise it above what you can pay if you have an unexpected loss. 

Got more questions about your coverage. We've got answers. Check out more insurance tips from Kin.


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