Although people who live in the middle of the US are used to dealing with tornadoes, they usually appear during the spring or summer months.
Twisters are much less common in winter – yet a tornado outbreak hit Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas between Dec. 26th and 28th.
That’s not the extent of the nasty weather that surprised those and other states late last year, though. The same storm hammered many Southern, Midwestern, and Northeastern locales with high winds, rain, snow, and ice too.
Actually, saying this system – which The Weather Channel named “Winter Storm Goliath” – brought wind, rain, snow, and ice to a large swath of the US makes it sound less serious than it was.
In fact, the storm produced 28 tornadoes in six Southern states. It also pounded those same locations, plus many to the north, with heavy rainfall that caused severe flooding. Other areas saw blizzard conditions that left inches, and sometimes feet, of snow and ice – as well as loads of car and homeowners insurance claims -- in their wake.
Scary Tornado Statistics
Here are some eye-opening facts about the tornadoes spawned by this mammoth storm, which sadly ended up being the deadliest of 2015:
- As was mentioned earlier, Goliath produced 28 tornadoes between Dec. 26th and 28th
- One of those twisters was an EF-4, which means wind speeds got as high as 200 mph
- That funnel killed eight people in Garland, Texas, and damaged as many as 600 buildings and structures
- An EF-3 twister, which boasted winds of between 136 and 165 mph, hit nearby Rowlett
- Three more people died due to an EF-2 (111 to 135 mph winds) tornado that touched down elsewhere in the Lone Star State
- All of the above prompted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to declare four Texas counties disaster areas
Dramatic Snow and Ice Accumulations Too
Just as dramatic as this storm system’s tornadic activity was all of the snow and ice associated with it. For instance:
- Early on, parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas experienced blizzard conditions
- More than a foot -- up to three feet in spots -- of snow fell in some areas, with drifts reaching as high as 12 feet
- Making matters worse, wind gusts of up to 80 mph slammed a number of locations in those three states
- Later, states like South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin received as up to 12 inches of snow
- Goliath brought the first measurable snow to portions of the Northeast, including Boston and Upstate New York
- The storm’s more wintry components caused the deaths of 20 or more people
Heavy Rainfall Leads to Deadly Floods
It only gets worse when you look at the rain this system dropped as it made its way across the country after Christmas.
- Some places in Missouri got as much as 10 inches of rain thanks to Goliath
- The flooding that followed killed at least 14 people in the Show-Me State alone
- Severe floods impacted 12 other states too, including Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama
- That flooding resulted in the deaths of 11 or more people in those and other states (such as Illinois and Oklahoma)
Damage Estimates (Or Lack Thereof)
Aside from the ones mentioned above and a few others – like how Goliath grounded 1,500 flights and killed 40,000 dairy cows – figures associated with this storm’s devastating impacts are hard to find.
A good example: global reinsurer Aon Benfield recently reported total economic losses from all weather-related events in the US this past December will top $4 billion. It also said insured losses could surpass $2 billion.
The only other damage estimate for Goliath is that the Texas tornadoes damaged hundreds of that state’s homes and buildings.
Considering tornadoes, high winds, rain, ice, and snow and also affected a number of other areas during the storm’s four-day march across the country, that’s probably not the extent of its wrath.
After all, tornadoes and wind gusts not only topple entire structures but also break windows and tear off roofs or siding. Rain floods basements – and potentially every other room of a building or home. Ice and snow cause trees to collapse. And of course each of these forms of weather regularly result in accidents and injuries.
Thankfully, standard car and homeowners insurance policies cover the most common winter-related issues. Here are a few of them:
- Wind damage to a home, its roof, or its contents
- Trees or tree limbs that fall onto and damage a house or other structure on the property
- Snow or ice that collapses a roof
- Burst pipes or ice dams
- Car accidents (involving more than two drivers) caused by snowy or slippery conditions
Which Kinds of Winter Storm Damage Doesn’t Insurance Cover?
One form of winter- or storm-related damage home insurance won’t cover is damage caused by flooding.
To protect your house and your possessions from the next huge winter storm, you have to shell out a few extra bucks. Specifically, you need to buy flood insurance from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program. Or you can buy it from a handful of private insurers that have partnered with the NFIP.
What about your car and the insurance you have on it? If you want to rest assured your wheels – and your wallet – will survive the next Goliath-like storm, you’ve got to go beyond liability coverage.
A case in point: liability coverage won’t help you if your vehicle crashes into something that isn’t another car because of slippery road conditions. For that, you have to buy collision coverage.
Also, if you want to protect your car against damage done by fallen ice or tree limbs, flooding, or wind, you need to add comprehensive coverage to your auto policy.