More than 9,000 damage claims filed so far with insurers

jpatton1@herald-leader.comMarch 5, 2012 

  • BBB urges caution in hiring contractors

    As expected, the Better Business Bureau of Central and Eastern Kentucky is seeing increased inquiries after Friday's damaging series of tornadoes.

    The organization received 112 inquiries regarding roofing contractors for the first five days of March compared to just 16 during those same days last year, BBB spokeswoman Heather Clary said.

    The BBB has asked residents to be cautious about hiring contractors for home repairs, because events such as these often attract traveling workers from out of state. Not all of them are reputable, and some might not stand behind their work, Clary said.

    Clary encouraged residents to check out requests for charity donations, as it's "always possible for crooks to try to take advantage of people's good-hearted natures."

    To check out local and out-of-state businesses with the Better Business Bureau, go to BBB.org or Bluegrass.bbb.org, or call the BBB at 1-800-866-6668. You also can email info@bluegrass.bbb.org, or contact the organization through its Facebook page at Facebook.com/BBBofCentralandEasternKY.

    Scott Sloan

Claims for damage from Friday's round of deadly tornadoes and hailstorms are pouring into Kentucky insurance agents by the thousands.

By mid-afternoon Monday, Kentucky Farm Bureau, one of the state's largest property insurers, had received more than 9,000 claims, said Greg Kosse, a spokesman for Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance.

"We anticipate those numbers are going to go up significantly," Kosse said. It's too early to put a dollar figure on the destruction "because the damage is just so devastating. ... This is a big storm, with 9,000 claims just after the first day," he said.

State Farm, the state's other large property insurer, declined to release preliminary numbers Monday. Spokesman Kip Diggs said a lot of claims were coming in.

"We're more concerned with folks who need help right now," Diggs said. "We do know we're seeing damage in the Louisville area, east of Lexington and in West Liberty a lot of damage. ... We do have people on the ground, looking at houses."

Some offices managed to open over the weekend, but most began taking claims first thing Monday morning. Farm Bureau agents in Magoffin and Morgan counties have been without power since the storm and are operating in temporary offices, Kosse said.

Other Farm Bureau offices were busy: Owensboro's district office reported nearly 1,000 claims, mostly from Union and Henderson counties; 800 claims were reported out of the Morehead district office, mostly from Bath, Morgan and Lawrence counties; and 600 claims at the Lexington district office, with claims for Anderson and Franklin counties for hail.

There were a significant number of claims from Elizabethtown, Campbellsville and Hopkinsville, Kosse said.

The tornadoes have drawn the most attention, but in the end, the most costly weather damage might come from hail, which rained down golf ball- and even tennis ball-size ice in most regions of the state.

"Tornadoes are very destructive and there is terrible loss of life," Kosse said. "But the hailstorms were so widespread ... and such big hail."

Preliminary estimates of damages might be available by the end of the week. Because of the nearly statewide swath of storm damage, the losses could approach those of the most expensive storms in recent history. Hurricane Ike in 2008 cost Farm Bureau alone more than $125 million, and the 2009 ice storm in January followed by a major windstorm in February had combined losses of $200 million, Kosse said.

The insurers urged patience.

"We're trying to serve the folks that had the most severe damage first and ask the others to be patient with us," Kosse said. "A lot of folks have claims."

Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter: @janetpattonhl.

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