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JARRELL, Texas-Deadly tornadoes and hailstorms that swept through central Texas last week could cost insurers as much as $50 million in property losses.
The late-afternoon storms that spawned several tornadoes with winds up to 260 mph destroyed about 50 homes in Jarrell, Texas, and took 30 lives as the twisters cut a swath of devastation between Austin and Waco.
Approximately 50 boats were destroyed at a marina at Morgan's Point Resort, train cars were blown from tracks, and the roof of an Albertson's grocery store collapsed along the path of the storms.
An estimate of $30 million to $50 million in insured property losses by Southwestern Insurance Information Service is "fairly preliminary," according to Jerry Johns, president of the Austin-based insurer trade association. "A lot of hail claims are slow coming in."
Gov. George W. Bush, who toured the area by helicopter, declared a portion of the region a disaster area. He described to reporters "a patch of earth where the life literally has been sucked out of it."
A subdivision hit by a tornado looked as if a giant broom had swept it clean, with concrete slabs the only remainder of the homes that once stood there. Fields were littered with dead cattle.
The storm's insured damages will add to catastrophe totals that reached $860 million in the United States during the first quarter, according to the Property Claims Services division of the American Insurance Services Group Inc. That figure is well below the $2.56 billion recorded during the same period in 1996.