On the night of February 26, at least seven tornadoes tore through the Oklahoma City area, setting the record for most active February tornadoes in Oklahoma history.1 The tornadoes and accompanying high wind speeds and hail caused widespread destruction and at least twelve injuries – thankfully, none of which are reported to be fatal.2 At the storm’s peak, OG&E reported 33,000 people were without power.3 The bulk of tornado damage occurred in Norman, Oklahoma — where I live — but the storm system caused damage throughout the south-central United States, with 114 mph winds reported in Texas.4 Photos of destroyed buildings, downed trees and power lines and overturned cars covered front pages Monday morning, showing the extent of the damage.
Every time a disaster like this occurs, Merlin Law Group attorneys prepare for an influx of policyholders who need help after their claims are denied or underpaid in the aftermath. For those who have suffered a loss and are trying to figure out their next steps, this blog is full of helpful information ̵1; here, here and here are good places to start. This post from 2011 offers a helpful 12-point checklist for anyone filing a tornado claim, which includes documenting all damages before clean up, note every communication between policyholder and insurer, quickly mitigate to prevent further damage and request frequent updates to ensure the claim doesn’t get lost among hundreds of others.
Norman is home to the University of Oklahoma and, as a college town, is full of student renters – many of whom probably have no idea how to proceed with a claim under their renters insurance. Again, it is important to compile evidence of all injuries. Renters insurance can also provide coverage for additional living expenses, so displaced tenants must keep all receipts for hotel rooms, meals and other living expenses incurred as a result of the loss. Although the tenant’s claim and the landlord’s claim will be separate, they should work together to accurately and fully document the loss and any expenses incurred.
Not long after the storm subsided late Sunday night and into the early hours of Monday morning, friends and neighbors were out working hard alongside cleanup crews to clear away the wreckage and begin rebuilding. I’ve lived in Oklahoma for over a decade, and while these disasters never get any easier, I’m always in awe of my community’s resilience and empathy in the aftermath.