Tornadoes Tear into Michigan Homes

Updated: 4:40 p.m. EDT

NU Online News Service, March 16, 10:50 p.m. EDT

More than 100 homes were damaged yesterday as three tornadoes touched down in Michigan, but there were no fatalities reported.

The Detroit Free Press reports that at least 50 homes were damaged in Dexter, Mich., as roofs were torn off of homes. 

The Associated Press put the figure of damaged homes at over 100.

The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center says it received numerous reports of tornado touchdowns in three locations in Michigan near the towns of Dexter, in Washtenaw County; Ida in Monroe County; and Columbiaville in Lapeer County.

The SSP says Dexter was the worst damaged area, report 100 homes damaged and 13 of which were significantly damaged. The other locations had reports of damage to trees and power lines.

Reports say the storm outbreak occurred around 5:30 p.m. CDT and 6:00 p.m. CDT yesterday.

A spokesperson for State Farm says in an e-mail that the company currently has 102 homeowners claims and 105 auto claims from the tornadoes and hail that hit the state yesterday. The hardest hit area was Dexter, where the company has 18 claims for severe damage and one claim for uninhabitable structure. The company had claims representatives on the ground almost immediately after the Dexter tornado.

Gary Kerney, assistant vice president of PCS at Insurance Services Office in Jersey City, N.J. issued a statement saying, “PCS has not issued a catastrophe serial number at this time.  PCS staff is evaluating the extent of insured damage. There are reports of severe weather in a number of states in addition to Michigan, mostly regarding damaging wind and hail.”

PCS classifies a catastrophe as any insurance-loss event of at least $25 million and affecting a significant number of policyholders and insurers.

Catastrophe modeler AIR-Worldwide says in a statement that the storms did not impact a “highly populated area; therefore damage should not be widespread.”

Neena Saith, director of catastrophe response for catastrophe modeler RMS says in a statement, “This activity is linked to the combination of record warm temperatures in the region and a surge of moisture from the south.  Tornado activity at this time of year in Michigan is unusual and there have only been 10 tornadoes reported in southeast Michigan before April 1,” based on records dating back to 1950.

Jose Miranda, EQECAT’s director of client advocacy, says preliminary weather service reports classify the tornado that struck Dexter as an EF3 with winds around 130 mph, leaving a 10 mile long path of destruction. He says 13 to 15 homes were totally destroyed and National Weather Service officials will be at the site today to confirm preliminary reports.

He says while the insurance losses are not known at this time, he estimates it will not be anywhere near the billions in dollars in losses seen earlier this month, and the insured loss damage would be somewhere in the low millions of dollars.

When asked if the tornado events of last year and early this year would have any impact on catastrophe models, he says they would not. While the number of tornadoes counted has increased over the years, frequency has not. The combination of better technology, more tornado spotters, and increased population density are all contributing to the growing number of sightings. There is not scientific reason for altering the models at this time. 

This story was updated at 4:40 p.m. EDT with comments from State Farm and catastrophe modelers.

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