Right in time for hail season, April 2023 set a strong precedent for the famously hail-heavy month, according to many reports on the aftermath of several severe spring weather storms.
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The storms that brought hail also inflicted strong winds, tornadoes, and wind-driven wildfires that damaged cities, homes, communities, and acres upon acres of farmland alike — and brings a strong reminder to farmers of the importance of having a hail insurance policy in place well in advance of the season, that will cover hail, wind, tornado, and even fire damage.
The scope of the damage
According to CNN and the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center, more than 100 hail reports and 5 tornado reports came in during April 4th’s highly anticipated storm event. Four-inch softball-sized hail struck Iowa, and slightly smaller hailstones and 90-mile-an-hour winds affected parts of central Illinois. All this just after a recent report showed that Illinois ranks #4 in the nation for hail claims in 2022, trailing after Texas, Arkansas, and Minnesota.
As a prelude to this destructive spring storm, more than 50 tornadoes touched down in some of these areas in the days prior. On April 4th, the most destructive storm day in the Midwest, around 15 additional tornadoes touched down with hard winds occurring in several states.
The Des Moines Register reported that one tornado that touched down in Iowa — categorized as an EF1, with 110 mph winds and a 15-mile-long trail — scattered debris across farmlands, which no doubt affected farmers and their ability to ready fields for spring planting and will likely cut into their revenue this year. The Washington Post documented many wrecked buildings, silos, and other scenes of destruction affecting agricultural communities.
In Oklahoma, winds from these storms whipped up a dangerous wildfire outbreak. Almost 100 fires were lit by these earliest of spring storms, burning thousands of acres — no doubt some of it agricultural — and destroying many homes. Hopefully their hail insurance policies cover wildfire damage in addition to hail, wind, and tornado damage.
Should farmers have expected storms like these?
Weather experts are saying that storms with this amount of power and damage aren’t unusual this time of year: farmers should expect them. That said, the number of tornadoes spawned by these storm systems was unusually high according to some while others say that “storm seasons” are expected to begin occurring once every few years.
What was most unusual, however — and not anticipated by any weather experts or meteorologists — is that one single large severe storm system moving across the country (especially with such high tornado numbers) touched down in two completely different and distant regions, most notably Illinois and Arkansas. What this means for farmers (and everyone): a severe weather watch or tornado warning could be issued in one area, but unexpectedly hit another area that is completely unprepared.
This makes weather analysts a bit restless about what storm systems will look like in May: the more notorious month for tornadoes (with historically higher numbers) and storm damage. While there is a ton of news coverage and statistics on the impacts these events had on homes, citizens, and communities, only time will tell how these impacted farms, agricultural business, and their crops when insurance statistics are reported later in the year.
How these hailstorms will affect farmers now (and in the future)
Because any statistics on crop insurance coverage come straight from insurance companies, there will be no way to know how uninsured (or underinsured) farmers were affected, but it bears repeating: farmers affected by hail, wind, or tornadoes can rarely get coverage retroactively! This is why April (and March) are the ideal months for farmers to purchase hail insurance BEFORE disaster hits.
Since weather events like these are becoming more frequent and expected, especially these ultra-destructive “derecho” weather events (having mainline winds of at least 100 mph like the one in 2020), some farm insurance coverage rates are going up, with premiums sometimes doubling or even tripling. But, this only applies to farm-related property insurance. Farmers seeking coverage for their crop assets can rejoice, as hail insurance premiums (and by association, wind and tornado coverage) are expected to stay roughly the same in most places.
How does hail insurance work?
You may think you have financial protection against losses from hail covered in your Multi-Peril Crop Insurance (MPCI) policies. But the fact is most MPCI policies leave out hail damage. An entire hail insurance policy will need to be purchased separately, typically from a private insurance provider, company, or agent as it is not offered publicly federally.
Here’s the good news: you can have MPCI with one provider (even a federal provider) and still have hail insurance on the side. Most hail insurance policies, though not all — be sure to speak with your agent —will also provide coverage against strong winds, tornados, and even fire, lightning, or product loss during transit. Colville Crop Insurance offer such hail insurance policies that cover all of these things!
The bottom line: don’t delay. Early April has set a strong precedent for what storms may look like this spring, and we haven’t even reached the month of May, where tornado and wind damage are more likely and could be even more destructive. Again, while April is the more likely month for hail damage, a hail insurance policy from us will also cover wind damage, tornado damage, and even fire damage. You’ll have coverage against hail damage for the remainder of April while being fully prepared for what winds Mother Nature may bring your way come May.
Give us a call today and rest easy knowing that you have your bases covered.