Tornadoes wreak havoc on communities, flattening homes and businesses and reducing automobiles to battered relics. Recovering from a tornado can also wreak havoc on your finances, especially if you don’t have insurance. That’s why it is important for people living in tornado-prone areas to protect their homes and vehicles with proper insurance coverage.
For many homeowners, standard home insurance policies already provide tornado protection. Depending on where you live, however, insurers may exclude windstorm claims. Auto insurance does not have built-in protection for windstorm damage, but one type of coverage can help get you back on the road following tornado damage. Learn more about the insurance options that can protect your home, car, and personal belongings in the event of a powerful storm.
Tornadoes in the United States
Tornados are among the most powerful natural forces humans face and can produce widespread damage to automobiles, homes, and other structures. To categorize tornadoes, the National Weather Service uses the Fujita Scale, which defines a tornado’s strength, wind speed, and damage to property.
|Fujita Scale||Wind Speed||Level of Damage|
|F0||40-72 mph||Light damage, such as broken tree branches, uprooted shallow-rooted trees, billboard disarray|
|F1||73-112 mph||Moderate damage to roofs and mobile homes, or cars swept off the road|
|F2||113-157 mph||Considerable damage to roofs, mobile homes, and boxcars; uprooting of large trees; light objects become projectiles|
|F3||158-206 mph||Severe damage, such as collapse of a home’s roof and walls, overturned trains, and uprooted forests; heavy cars lifted and thrown|
|F4||207-260 mph||Devastating damage, including leveled homes and cars thrown some distance|
|F5||260-318 mph||Incredible damage, such as homes lifted from their foundations; large, heavy objects thrown hundreds of feet; trees debarked|
Weather conditions that produce tornadoes of all categories can arise almost anywhere but occur most frequently in the southern Plains, such as Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, as well as the Gulf coast, the northern Plains, and the upper Midwest (North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota).
Tornadoes occur much more frequently than you might imagine. The National Center for Environmental Information reported 132 tornadoes in August 2021, 146 in October 2021, and 202 in December 2021. In December 2021, tornadoes took the lives of 87 people.
Tornado Insurance for Cars
Comprehensive coverage is the one type of car insurance that will usually pay for tornado damage. State laws do not typically require comprehensive coverage, but if you finance or lease a vehicle, the lender or leasing company will often require you to carry it until you complete the lease or pay the last installment.
Comprehensive coverage also covers damages caused by other types of storm-related perils, such as floods, hail, lightning strikes, or falling objects such as trees. But if hail or a tornado damages your automobile and you don’t have comprehensive coverage, you’ll have to pay for repairs out of pocket.
It's important to note that comprehensive coverage doesn’t cover all damages caused by tornadoes. If a tree limb falls during a tornado and smashes the window of your parked car, comprehensive coverage will likely pay for repairs. However, if you’re driving and swerve to miss a downed tree and crash into a ditch, you’ll have to file a claim against your collision insurance, another optional coverage.
Comprehensive coverage is subject to your policy’s deductible. Review your policy so you understand what you will be responsible for should a natural disaster strike.
Tornado Coverage for Homes
Standard homeowners policies typically provide several protections for tornado losses.
The dwelling coverage of most standard home insurance policies covers losses caused by hail and wind, which would include tornadoes. Following a covered loss, dwelling coverage helps to repair or rebuild your home. Like car insurance, homeowners insurance is subject to a deductible.
Dwelling coverage only pays up to your policy’s limit. For example, if your policy has a $250,000 dwelling limit, it will pay up to $250,000. If costs exceed the limit, you must pay the difference.
Most standard home insurance policies also include loss-of-use coverage, which is also known as additional living expense coverage or Coverage D. If a covered loss requires you to move out of your home for repairs, loss-of-use coverage can help pay expenses such as temporary housing and meals.
Under certain circumstances, the dwelling coverage of a home insurance policy may pay for a percentage of tornado damage to landscaping. For example, if a tornado topples a healthy tree that damages a covered structure, your insurer may pay to remove it.
Some insurers do not cover wind damage in certain areas. For example, providers exclude wind-damage losses in 14 counties of Texas’ Gulf Coast regions. However, homeowners in these Texas regions can purchase supplemental windstorm coverage through the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association if they meet certain criteria.
Some insurance companies offer supplemental windstorm coverage in coastal regions of other states, including Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
Some policies cover tornado damage but have a separate and higher deductible for windstorm claims. For example, a policy might have a $1,000 general deductible with a $2,000 windstorm deductible.
Tornado Coverage for Other Property
Standard home insurance policies also protect your home’s furnishings. Some insurers offer riders and endorsements that provide enhanced coverages for your house, and others provide policies that help you get back on your feet after a tornado.
Personal Property Coverage
Following a covered loss, the personal property coverage of a homeowners policy reimburses you for damaged belongings, such as artwork, clothes, electronics, decorations, furniture, and musical instruments.
Most standard policies pay a depreciated value, or actual cash value, for damaged personal property. However, some carriers offer replacement cost endorsements, which pay to replace your belongings at current market prices.
Typically, insurers base personal property coverage limits on a percentage of your policy’s dwelling coverage, often 50%-70%. So if you carry $500,000 in dwelling coverage, your policy might offer up to $350,000 in personal property coverage.
Proactively compiling a detailed list of your belongings will help you simplify the claims process in the event of a tornado or other event. It’s also a good idea to check your insurance policy for any coverage limits on items such as jewelry, silverware, and computers.
Extended Replacement-Cost Coverage
Some providers offer extended replacement-cost dwelling coverage endorsements or riders. This optional coverage pays above your dwelling coverage. Typically, insurers offer extended replacement-cost coverage as a percentage of your dwelling coverage.
For example, if your policy has a dwelling coverage limit of $200,000, and you have an extended replacement-cost coverage limit of 50%, your insurance will pay up to $300,000 in rebuild costs, minus your deductible.
Although you might have a good idea how much it would cost to rebuild your home, major disasters can drive up construction costs. For example, if a tornado wiped out all the homes in your neighborhood, the demand for contractors and construction workers could skyrocket. Extended replacement-cost coverage could help fill the cost gap.
Some providers offer supplemental tornado insurance. This low-cost coverage quickly pays money directly to you following a tornado. Tornado insurance allows you to use the money for anything you wish, such as paying your insurance deductible, covering debris removal costs, or paying temporary housing expenses.
The Bottom Line
Most standard homeowners policies cover losses to homes and personal belongings caused by tornadoes. Some insurers offer enhanced protections such as extended replacement-cost coverage, which helps pay unforeseen rebuild costs. However, in some coastal regions, providers might exclude windstorm claims, or require higher deductibles for wind losses.
Only auto comprehensive coverage pays to repair or replace automobiles damaged by tornadoes or other weather-related perils such as hail. Although states don’t require drivers to carry comprehensive coverage, it’s relatively affordable for many auto owners, and valuable protection for motorists who live in areas prone to extreme storms.
National Weather Service. "The Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF Scale."
NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory. ”Severe Weather 101 - Tornadoes.”
National Center for Environmental Information. "U.S. Tornadoes.
South Carolina Department of Insurance. “Automobile Insurance.”
American Family Insurance. “Loss of Use/Temporary Living Expenses Coverage on Homeowners Insurance."
Texas Windstorm Insurance Association. “Coverage & Eligibility.”
USAA. “Windstorm Insurance.”
Insurance Information Institute. “Background on Hurricane and Windstorm Deductibles.”
Insurance Information Institute. “How Much Homeowners Insurance Do I Need?”