Insurance and Finance

North Texas Tornado Recovery

By Peter Simek 1.13.20

It was an image straight out of a Hollywood disaster film: a flash of lightning in a pitch-black night sky revealing the cragged twist of a massive tornado bearing down on one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in Texas.

On Oct. 20, 2019, a total of 10 tornadoes blasted through the heart of North Texas. The largest, a category EF-3 with speeds up to 140 miles per hour, rammed straight through North Dallas, ripping apart houses, schools, and shopping centers, and sending debris flying 20,000 feet in the air. By the time the storm was over, the  tornadoes had caused an estimated $2 billion in damage, making the incident the costliest tornado strike in Texas history.

Texas is no stranger to tornadoes. The powerful funnel clouds rip through the state with such regularity they have become a fact of life and a facet of Texas culture. But last October’s tornadoes show that when those funnel clouds descend on the state’s more populated areas, their impact can be massive.

No matter where you live in Texas, it is important that you prepare for tornadoes and know what to do to stay safe during — and after — an unthinkable tornado outbreak.

Ensure Your Safety

The immediate aftermath of a traumatic event like a tornado can be incredibly frightening and confusing. It is important that you remember to start the recovery process after a tornado strike by staying safe. Here are a few first steps to take to ensure your safety after a tornado:

  • Head count. Make sure you and your loved ones are accounted for.
  • Check for any injuries to yourself and others and administer first aid if necessary. If anyone is seriously injured, do not attempt to move them and contact local authorities for assistance.
  • Secure pets to keep them safe in the aftermath of a tornado.
  • Keep tabs on any important weather information.
  • Don’t leave your protected area or shelter until you know it is safe outside. As last October’s North Texas storm illustrated, some storms can pack multiple tornadoes, and you shouldn’t leave shelter until you know the weather threat is over.
  • Contact family and loved ones to make sure they know you’re OK, and if possible, check in as “safe” on an appropriate website.

Assess Your Property

Once you’ve ascertained the safety of your human and animal loved ones, you can turn your mind to your property. If your property has been damaged by a tornado, you shouldn’t return to it until authorities tell you it is safe. Take these steps before returning home:

  • Watch for downed power lines, fallen tree limbs, scattered debris, and other dangers like broken glass and exposed chemicals. These can transform the quietest and safest streets and neighborhoods into hazard zones.
  • Avoid entering damaged buildings, which can be very dangerous.
  • If you are concerned about the safety of any structure you own, contact a building inspector to assess the damage before re-entering the building.

Tread Carefully

If your building or homes are safe to enter, there are still many things you need to do to ensure that your property is safe. Tornadoes can disrupt many of the normal city services we take for granted, such as water and electricity. Take the following steps to ensure your home is safe:

  • If you smell gas, open the windows and turn off the main gas meter valve.
  • If you are unsure if drinking water has been contaminated during the storm, boil your water before using it for washing, brushing teeth, or drinking.
  • Take stock of what food may have been damaged during the storm or contaminated by rain or water from pipe breakages.
  • Check to see if any chemicals or other hazardous materials have spilled or if they are secure.
  • Do not flush your toilets until you know that the local sewer lines haven’t been damaged by the storm. 
  • Turn off power to your house to make sure that, if there is electrical service or when service is restored, broken lines will not cause a fire.
  • Be sure to stock up on batteries and use battery-powered lights instead of candles.
  • If your home is too damaged to live in, make sure it is as safe and secure as possible against rain, wind, or looting — and keep the receipts for any expenses incurred while securing your property.

Financial Recovery

No one wants to live through the horror of a direct tornado strike, but if your home is hit by a tornado, rest assured that there is a Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent standing by to help you on the road to recovery.

  • Contact your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent as soon as possible, and if you are displaced because of storm damage, make sure your Agent knows how to contact you.
  • Gather your receipts and any other documentation that you will need during the insurance claim-filing process.
  • Take photos of the damage.
  • Keep any receipts for costs you incur during the recovery process, including unforeseen costs like temporary housing and any immediate repairs. Don’t throw anything away until you have met with an insurance adjuster.

As soon as you begin the claims process, an adjuster will be scheduled to assess your damage, and your Agent will work to get your claim completed.

Emotional Recovery

Often, the most overlooked step in the recovery process after a traumatic event like a tornado is victims’ emotional health and recovery. To the best of your ability, try to be attentive to your emotional needs as well as those of other people in your household. Children and the elderly are often most affected by the trauma of a catastrophic event like a tornado strike. Stay attuned to their behavior and remember that you are not alone. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Red Cross, and volunteer organizations may offer counseling services to assist you in your recovery.

And as you travel that path, remember to stay as calm as possible and take things one step at a time. You can rest assured that your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent will be there along the way to help guide you through the process of recovery.

Coverage and discounts are subject to qualifications and policy terms and may vary by situation. © 2020 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance