NU Online News Service, March 9, 12:04 p.m. EST
The damages in Henryville, Ind. are beyond visual.
“It’s hard to explain,” says Daniel E. Stone, president and chief executive of Indiana Farmers Mutual Insurance Co. in an interview. “You hear about heirlooms and memories lost. People have spent their entire lives here.
“The school they went to is gone. The church where they worshipped is gone.”
Stone visited the small town and its surrounding area following a destructive tornado March 2.
Henryville was nearly flattened by the storm. Thirty-nine people died and thousands were left homeless.
Stone says he heard numerous stories from policyholders as they visited the neighborhood Indiana Farmers Mutual agency, without heat and powered by a generator to keep the phones working.
“Someone said their sister and brother-in-law were actually pulled up into the tornado and then released,” Stone says. “They’re in the hospital now, recovering.”
The mobile home they lived in was reduced to scattered debris, he adds.
“It’s heart-wrenching,” Stone says. “You can’t find the right words. This is the business we’re in and it’s our opportunity to fulfill a promise we made to them, but you come to find that’s the easiest thing you can do.
“This isn’t just about property damage.”
Indiana Farmers Mutual had fielded more than 720 claims and paid out about $4.6 million as of late March 8, Stone says.
The company will retain the first $6 million in losses before reinsurance kicks in, adds the chief executive of the Indiana-only insurer.
“What impresses you is the selflessness,” he says. “We’ve had people come up and say, ‘We just lost our roof. They lost everything. Take care of them first.’”
Stone says one advantage to being such a local insurer is response time. The insurer had people—employees and in some cases, their spouses—on the ground immediately.
Saturday morning when Stone took a very early trip to the office, his executive team was already there waiting, planning.
“If you take a poll of our workforce, most people have spent most, if not all, of their lives in Indiana,” Stone says. “This is where we live. These are our neighbors.”