Insurers Handling Claims from Southeast Hail Storms

By Holbrook Mohr | March 21, 2013

Several southern states are cleaning up after powerful winds and massive hail hammered the region.

Hundreds of claims are pouring in to insurance companies in Mississippi, an early indication of the widespread damage left behind by a hail storm that pounded the capital city and other areas.

Authorities say it’s too early to know exactly how many structures were damaged, but it appears to be a significant amount in Jackson and its suburbs.

Jim Rowles, who works in claims for Farm Bureau Insurance, said his company had received about 500 property claims and 921 automotive claims by 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Rowles said the numbers will go up. “They’re coming in steady,” he said.

Most claims have been in Hinds, Madison and Rankin counties. Rowles said another group of claims was coming in from Pike and Lincoln counties.

Alfa Insurance had received 746 automotive and property claims as of early Tuesday afternoon, said spokeswoman Mary Johnson.

State Farm, the state’s largest home and auto insurer, said claims numbers weren’t available yet.

State Sen. Dean Kirby, a Pearl Republican who has been in the insurance business for years, said it’s hard to know how many claims there will be, but the amount will be significant.

“It would not surprise me at all if the damages reach $20 million statewide in hail damage, and that’s not even considering car dealerships,” Kirby said.

Hail as big as baseballs pounded some spots in Jackson and its suburbs, and there were reports of even larger hailstones in a few places.

The storms that pushed across parts of Mississippi on Monday left damage in 18 counties, though some of that was downed trees, said Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Jeff Rent.

One person was treated for minor injuries and released from the University of Mississippi Medical Center after being hit by hail, said spokesman Jack Mazurak.

Lovett Elementary School in Clinton was closed Tuesday due to severe damage. About 350 sixth-graders were sent to other schools.

“The roof was so badly damaged that there were leaks in almost every classroom,” said Sandi Beason, spokesman for the Clinton Public School District.

In Rankin County, Emergency Operations Director Bob Wedgeworth said more than 100 homes were damaged in one subdivision alone.

“So far, we’ve got considerable damage. It seems to be pretty widespread,” Wedgeworth said.

The hail broke windows at the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield and caused a little damage at Brandon High School, authorities said.

The Mississippi Department of Public Safety had damage to more than 50 cars. The Jackson Police Department said it had damage to 69.

Other law enforcement agencies and first responders in the Jackson metro area also said they had damaged cars, including in Clinton, Brandon and Pearl.

The hail storm was caused by cold temperatures in the atmosphere and unstable air, said Marc McCallister, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson.

“It was such a downdraft that the hail didn’t melt very much on the way to the ground,” he said. “I think it’s been about 20 years — back in the `90s — since we had a storm like this.”

Mississippi’s insurance commissioner says the wind and hail storm that hit the state could result in 35,000 to 50,000 insurance claims. Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney said Tuesday those numbers are based on information provided by insurers and include automotive and property damage claims. A lot of damage is in the Jackson area, where hail as big as baseballs pounded some spots Monday night.

The National Weather Service confirmed one tornado in Georgia and two in Alabama. Authorities also reported that a man was killed in Polk County, Ga., after a tree fell on his vehicle.

About 69,000 Alabama Power customers and 13,500 Georgia Power customers remained without power Tuesday night, a day after storms with the force of hurricane winds toppled trees and utility lines.

 

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