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Insurers unsure of extent of Tennessee tornado damage


Damage consistent with winds up to 165 miles per hour is being found in Nashville and surrounding areas after they were hit by a series of powerful tornadoes early Tuesday, according to industry experts.

Shortly after midnight local time an outbreak of severe convective storms that caused tornadoes, large hail and straight-line winds crossed parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and Arkansas, with the worst damage occurring in Tennessee, including Nashville.

The number of confirmed tornadoes is not yet known, nor is the full extent of the damage, said Christopher Allen, product manager in London for RMS North America severe convective storm, part of Risk Management Services Inc. of Newark, California. He said that “given the damage potential of EF-2 and EF-3 tornadoes, their occurrence in urban areas, and reports and images from the media, damage to several hundred buildings — including well-built structures — would not be surprising.”

CoreLogic is estimating that 22,389 structures had a 30% or greater damage probability, with more than $2 billion in damage from the 50-mile-long tornadic event that extended well beyond the Nashville area.

Recovery efforts are still underway in the region, said Kenneth Tolson, U.S. president of claims solutions at Atlanta-based Crawford & Co.

“It really is too early” to begin estimating damages, he said, adding “we are just getting into areas,” due to restrictions. Airspace was closed on Monday, he said.

“The emergency management people have to get in there,” he said, adding there are still people unaccounted for.

Given the areas hit by the tornadoes, Mr. Tolson said there would be a wide range of commercial and residential risks involved, and that Crawford has inspections scheduled for Wednesday.

The National Weather Service has yet to complete damage surveys, he said, but so far damage consistent with EF-3 tornado winds with gusts between 136-165 mph has been found in East Nashville, Donelson and Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, Damage consistent with EF-2 tornado winds with gusts between 111-135 mph has been found in other parts of the Nashville region, including in the vicinity of John C. Tune Airport, and in Carroll and Benton counties.

Structures damaged at the airport included at least three large hangars along Tune Airport Drive on the southeast side of the airfield.  Several smaller hangars were destroyed, causing damage to business jets, turboprops and other general aviation aircraft, according to a note from aviation analysts at Cirium, part of Reed Business Information Ltd.

More than 100 structures were reported damaged in Putnam County, but as of 8 a.m. ET on Wednesday, the National Weather Service had not been able to survey the area, Mr. Allen said.

Spring is typically the peak season for severe convective storms in the U.S., he said, with most tornadoes in Tennessee occurring between late March and early May. Downtown Nashville, however, “is not a stranger to tornadoes” earlier than that, he said.

On March 14, 1933, a tornado with an estimated rating of EF-3 crossed the city, causing heavy damage in East Nashville. On April 16, 1998, an EF-3 tornado took a very similar track, damaging hundreds of homes and several large commercial buildings.

There was even another “Super Tuesday” tornado outbreak in Tennessee: On Feb. 5-6, 2008, 14 tornadoes, including two rated EF-3, touched down in the counties surrounding Nashville, although none affected the city itself.