Severe thunderstorms in late May caused $4 billion to $7 billion in insured losses in the United States, according to AIR Worldwide, a disaster-modeling firm.
Normally the most active month for thunderstorms, May began quietly with only a handful of isolated tornadoes reported. However, activity picked up on May 20 when severe thunderstorms erupted in eastern Texas and parts of Arkansas and Oklahoma, bringing high winds, hail and five reported tornadoes.
The next week more than 150 tornadoes developed from Lake Superior to central Texas and east through Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and to the East Coast, impacting more than 20 states. The violent storms damaged or destroyed thousands of buildings, injured more than 1,000 people and killed over 160 residents.
Hardest hit was Joplin, Mo., where a tornado cut through town, leaving a path of destruction three-quarters of a mile wide and 14 miles long. Over 8,000 homes and apartment units, and more than 500 commercial properties were destroyed or damaged, according to AIR Worldwide. St. John's Regional Medical Center was left standing, but the entire building shifted four inches off its foundation. It was the deadliest tornado to hit the United States in more than 50 years.
So far this year, the number of preliminary tornado reports is nearly double the average since 2005, AIR Worldwide said.
Estimates for insured losses include only damage that is covered by insurance. AIR Worldwide's insured loss estimates include insured physical property damage, additional living expenses for home insurance claims and business interruption losses.