It will take weeks to calculate losses from the May 20 Oklahoma City area tornado, but experts are drawing comparisons to a powerful twister that devastated much of the same area in 1999. That storm wrecked some 8,000 houses and caused $1 billion in insured losses in the state.
The Oklahoma Department of Insurance told the Associated Press that damage from the most recent tornado could total $2 billion. The powerful twister cut a mile-wide path of destruction through Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City. The National Weather Service classified the tornado as an EF-5, which means wind speeds were over 200 mph.
AIR Worldwide, a global risk modeling company, estimated cost to replace property within a .4-mile to a one-mile buffer zone on either side of the tornado path would total between $2.2 billion and $6.4 billion.
The May 20 tornado reduced thousands of homes to rubble and destroyed two schools. Cars were thrown like darts through the wall of Briarwood Elementary. Moore Medical Center lost its entire top floor.
The twister was part of a large storm system that produced 22 tornadoes, mostly in Oklahoma, although some were reported in Missouri, Texas, Kansas, Arkansas and Colorado. The Moore tornado was by far the worst.
Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, said the United States is in the midst of the most expensive period in recorded history for thunderstorms and tornadoes.
"While replacing and repairing damaged properties may not be a high priority at the moment, the insurance industry will play a significant role in rebuilding Moore and other parts of Oklahoma just as it did following the storms in 1999," he said in a press statement the day after the devastating storm.