Nearly 1,000 Homes Hit By Tornadoes

NU Online News Service, April 26, 3:40 p.m. EDT

Close to 1,000 homes were destroyed or damaged by the fatal weekend tornado activity in eight southern states, according to reinsurance brokerage Guy Carpenter and other sources.

Estimates of the economic and insured losses from the twisters were not immediately available.

In a Cat-i catastrophe information report the firm said that at least 12 people were killed.

According to reports from officials, 61 tornadoes swept through states that included Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida and South Carolina.

Guy Carpenter said the dead included 10 people in rural Mississippi and two others in Alabama while at least 70 people were injured.

National Weather Service said one tornado was tracked with winds estimated at up to 160 mph.

The weather system also created other tornadoes that hit towns in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee while strong winds downed trees in Georgia. In total, eight states were placed on tornado watch over the weekend.

Roofs were torn off buildings, homes reduced to rubble, vehicles were tossed and flipped over, power lines downed and trees toppled.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour described the scene in badly hit Yazoo County as "utter obliteration," adding that "by God's grace it did not go into the central part of the city."

Guy Carpenter noted reports that the Mississippi tornadoes damaged nearly 700 homes and businesses, leading Gov. Barbour to declare a state of emergency in 17 counties.

Ten people were killed in Mississippi--five in Choctaw County, four in Yazoo County and one from Holmes County. Power lines were downed and roads were blocked by fallen trees after a tornado estimated to be almost a mile wide blew through the center of Mississippi.

Seven counties on a 190-mile path reported damage ranging from fallen trees and downed power lines to flattened homes and businesses, reports said.

Around 320 houses were reported damaged in Yazoo County alone (population of around 28,000 people), officials said. At least 40 homes were also damaged in Warren County, according to reports. Choctaw was also badly hit, with more than 100 homes damaged.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said nearly 200 homes were damaged in Attala, Holmes, Monroe and Union. An emergency official estimated that the storm left thousands without power and hundreds homeless.

In Alabama, 33 people were reported injured, many in a mobile home park where a tornado flipped trailers. Power was cut to about 15,000 people before crews began restoring electricity and cleaning up debris.

A curfew was ordered in the town of Albertville (Marshall County) after a tornado caused severe damage and disruption. Fire officials said numerous power lines were downed and hail of various sizes was reported across Alabama.

The storm also left damage in Lamar County and DeKalb County. An estimated 200 structures were reportedly damaged in the town of Geraldine (DeKalb County). Elsewhere, power outages were reported in Arkansas and Georgia, while homes and businesses were damaged in Louisiana and Tennessee.

A spokesperson from Risk Management Solutions catastrophe modeling firm e-mailed a commentary that noted many reports of down trees, "which have led to many of the power outages, as well as blocking highways."

RMS said states near to Mississippi have been less severe, "although there were 10-15 homes destroyed in Louisiana as well as 'significant damage' to a chemical industrial plant and a further 33 injuries in Alabama."

Both Insurance Information Institute and Property Casualty Insurers Association of America put out public advisories in the wake of the tornadoes warning people in affected areas to make emergency preparations for such events and explaining that tornado losses to a home are covered by the "windstorm" peril under the homeowners insurance policy.

Renters insurance, it was noted, also provides coverage to policyholder possessions under this peril. Business owners are covered under their commercial policies, and protection from windstorm or hail damage for cars is covered under the "comprehensive" portion of the automobile insurance policy.

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