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

Volunteers helped clear debris and look for salvageable belongings in what was once a mobile home owned by Aaron Keith. The mobile home was destroyed 2/29/2012 when a suspected tornado moved through Russell County. Bill Estep photo
Volunteers helped clear debris and look for salvageable belongings in what was once a mobile home owned by Aaron Keith. The mobile home was destroyed 2/29/2012 when a suspected tornado moved through Russell County. Bill Estep photo

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."

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