Tornado Insurance: When Will You Need this Type of Coverage? (2021)

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Tornadoes, cyclones, twisters…whatever you call these scary natural disasters, they can do a lot of damage. 

Do you know if your homeowner’s insurance policy covers tornado damage? Some don’t, and even those that do might have inadequate or partial coverage. Here, check out our guide to tornado insurance. If you’re thinking of making a safer switch, don’t forget that you can compare and purchase a new policy right here with Insurify.

Tornado Coverage Options

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Before we dive into the nuances of your policy, let’s review some quick tips to reduce damage and loss of your personal property in the event of a tornado. These are especially important if you live in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, and parts of South Dakota—the areas of the United States known as “Tornado Alley.” Although tornadoes can occur anywhere, the flat plains of the midwest are most susceptible.

Preventing tornado damage

  • Compile a kit. Your tornado kit should include items that can be used without power or water, like flashlights, spare batteries, nonperishable foods, and a battery-operated radio. It’s also a good idea to keep these supplies near important paperwork and valuables. If the worst occurs, you won’t be able to head to the bank to access your safe deposit box. Keep items like social security cards, passports, and insurance documents in a water- and fire-resistant box at home.
  • Go outside. Every few months, examine the area around your home to assess potential threats in the event of a tornado or other type of weather event. Keep trees and shrubs trimmed and in good condition, removing dead branches as soon as possible. Ensure that loose items like patio furniture are secured to the ground when you’re not using them. If you live near power lines, keep the areas around them clear. You may need to hire a professional tree trimmer to remove branches near power lines.
  • Have a plan. Even if tornado season isn’t for another six months, it’s not a bad idea to check in with your family to make sure you have a plan. If a tornado strikes and you become separated, where will you meet? How will you communicate? By making sure you’re all on the same page, you can be completely prepared when and if the weather takes a turn for the worst.

So…are tornadoes covered?

Unlike flood insurancethere’s no separate policy for “tornado insurance.” This is because the damage caused by tornadoes can typically be categorized as either wind damage or water damage. If your home is struck by a tornado and you need to file an insurance claim, your insurance company will classify the damage as flood-related or wind-related. Homeowners insurance policies nearly always cover wind damage, but flood damage is another story. If your home is at risk for serious flood damage, you can purchase a flood insurance policy through the National Flood Insurance Program.

One interesting quirk of this type of insurance coverage? If moisture gets into your home because of wind (for example, if wind damages your roof and allows rain to enter), your homeowners insurance policy will likely cover the damage caused by that rain.

After a disaster, an insurance agent may come to your home to assess the damage and try to understand exactly how it was caused.

Tornado Coverage for Renters

If you rent your home in tornado country, you might have wondered what you’d be liable for in the event of a destructive twister. The rule for tornadoes is the same for any type of natural disaster: renters are only liable for damage to their own personal property. Any damage to the home itself, whether it’s a single-family home, a guest house, an apartment, or something else, is covered by the owner’s own home insurance policy. This might be traditional homeowners insurance, condo insurance, or another policy depending on the type of dwelling you live in.

In the event of a damaging tornado, your renters insurance policy is likely to cover the following:

  • Your belongings: Depending on the specifics of your policy, you may be awarded the actual cash value or the replacement cost of your personal property. “Actual cash value” is the amount of money that your stuff is currently worth—what you paid for it when it was new, minus depreciation. “Replacement cost” is equal to the amount of money it would cost to purchase a new replacement today. It’s very important to double-check what your policy offers well before you need it.
  • Lodging elsewhere: If your rental is too badly damaged to occupy safely or comfortably, your renters insurance policy will likely pay for you to stay in a hotel until the necessary repairs have been made.

Tornado Coverage for Your Car

Your auto insurance policy likely covers most damage caused by tornadoes, including wind damage or damage from falling debris. Check to ensure your car insurance includes “comprehensive coverage.” These are the magic words in your policy that will ensure your ride is safe in extreme weather.

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Updated January 14, 2021

Alex Lancaster is a writer, traveler, and cat person living in Southern California. With a background in copywriting and content strategy, she loves simplifying the complex and making connections.