Last Night's Hail Storm Will Cost Insurance Companies Hundreds of Millions of Dollars

Categories: Biz, Weather

Local photographer Danny Hurley's vehicle was damaged by Ford F150-sized hail.
If you are a roof, a delicate glass sculpture or one of the cars stuck in the open because of the assholes who took shelter under one of the overpasses on Central, yesterday was not a good day. Days usually aren't when you're pelted with chunks of ice the size of baseballs. Or were they grapefruit-sized? Maybe ostrich egg? Planetoid? Whatever. They didn't stick around long enough to be asked.

It's now the day after, time to ask how much damage Dallas-Fort Worth's collective property suffered in cold, hard dollars.

"That's the very question everybody asks," Mark Hanna, spokesman for the Insurance Council of Texas, told Unfair Park today.

He was polite but explained that storm's been gone for less than 24 hours. People are still grieving over hail-dented BMWs and inundating their insurance agents with claims. Working through that process takes three to four days. It's way too early to put a dollar figure on it, Hanna said.

But I'm a journalist. I don't have time to wait for facts. Just give me a ballpark figure, I said.

"The storm that occurred back on April 3 was somewhere in the ballpark of $400 million," he said. Initial estimates put last night's damage at more than that. It's what's known in the insurance biz as a "catastrophe," a term of art that means companies bring in adjusters from out of state to help wade through the flood of claims.

Damn. More than $400 million? From a 15-minute hail storm?

Yep. Hail storms are expensive, Hanna said. The system that moved through Ft. Worth in 1995 did $1 billion worth of damage, a record at the time for a hail storm. That was topped in 2001 by a downpour in Missouri that moved the needle to $1.1 billion.

"They rank just as high as any tornado damage pretty much, unless you just have an F-5 go right through middle of the city," Hanna said. "It causes damage to everything in it's path, and its widespread."

Lots of roofs, lots of cars. Typically not a lot of pricey glass artwork.

But back to the money thing. That Ft. Worth one was billion right? With a "B"? How did last night stack up to that?

Too early to tell, Hanna said. The Ft. Worth system started in Abilene and shot due east 120 miles, doing most of its damage in Ft. Worth. Last night's was shorter but had larger hail.

It's also too early to know what portion of the damage the broken Chihuly sculpture(s) will account for, and I couldn't reach the Arboretum spokeswoman for an estimate. But you needn't worry. The exhibit, Hanna said, is covered by a $20 million insurance policy.

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Paying more in insurance premiums than the car is worth just so you "get some money back" is stupid.


 Did the hail also break a hole in the package shelf?


 and me ... I haven't had an accident in 13 years now ... and that one was when I got rear ended by a drunk while I was stopped at a stoplight ...


 $3 and a BBB "approved" rating will get you a pot of coffee at the IHOP.


The business model of the insurance industry is to take in premiums that cover the expected cost of claims plus a small amount of overhead, and that's it. The profit is supposed to come only from the timing between when you pay your premium, and the insurance company's ability to earn returns on that money in the meantime. Of course, because insurance is a regulated industry with incredibly high barriers to entry and incredible amounts of crony capitalism, that's not how it works. Rates should not increase from an event like this because the risk going forward of this happening again has not changed.

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