It wasn’t as bad as a hurricane for the total amount of destruction. But the two storms only eight days apart that ripped through Mississippi in February led to widespread damage resulting in thousands of claims being filed by insurance policy holders.
Shelby Melvin, associate claims manager, Mississippi Farm Bureau, said the storm on Feb. 16 was unusual in that it caused damages in such a wide area spanning from Yazoo County to Lowndes County.
“It was a huge storm,” Melvin said. “It was such a widespread area. We had about 2,500 claims. Then there was the tornado in Pontotoc. That storm was fairly concentrated. We had about 250 claims, and 35 of those were total losses.”
Melvin said this is the time of year when severe spring storms are expected. He said the Farm Bureau responded by pulling in help from elsewhere in the state and from out of state.
“Anytime you have 3,000 claims come in during a week, it is a lot of pressure,” Melvin said. “We were fortunate we had the manpower to get it attended to.”
Lisa Foley, communication manager for the national catastrophe team for Allstate Insurance Co., said that because of the two storms so close together, their national catastrophe team was already in place by the time the second storm hit.
“Our Mississippi customers suffered a lot of high wind, lightning and hail damage,” Foley said. “Normally the catastrophe team is designed to respond to catastrophes throughout the country in 24 to 36 hours. So we were able to send catastrophe specialists into Mississippi within 24 hours of the first storm, and they were poised and ready to assist when the second storm moved through.”
She said after a disaster the last thing people want is to wait a long time to get a claim processed in order to begin repairs. The special catastrophe team allows the company to respond quickly to policyholders with losses while keeping regular offices open to serve customers not affected by the disaster.
“That way we can give everyone quick, efficient service,” Foley said. “One of the things that is sad about a situation like this isn’t just the loss of property, but the loss of the life. When that is part of a storm, it makes it even more compelling to respond quickly.”
Allstate had 245 claims from the first storm, and 871 claims from the second storm.
State Farm had 4,800 claims from the first storm including about 1,000 auto claims. Jim Sikora, regional catastrophe coordinator for State Farm Insurance ALMS, said Columbus and Starkville were the hardest hit areas. Damages are estimated at a total of $19 million including $3 million for auto.
State Farm, which is the largest insurance provider in the state of Mississippi, received about 500 claims for the storm on February 24 in the Greenwood, Pontotoc and Baldwyn areas. Total damages are expected to be about $7 million.
Sikora said insurance rates are not necessarily impacted by disasters like these.
“Individual policies are not impacted by this type of occurrence,” Sikora said. “Over time actuaries may develop rating changes if an area is disaster prone.”
Sikora said there is concern about having two bad storms so early in the year.
“It is still pretty darn early,” he said. “We are just really getting into the spring storm season. These are pretty significant frequency and dollar damages. Traditionally from the beginning of February until end of May would be our spring season in which we get a lot of wind, thunderstorm and tornado activity.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at firstname.lastname@example.org or (228) 872-3457.