Tornado Damage and Your Insurance, Explained

Understand your coverage before, during, and after the storm.

Team LemonadeTeam Lemonade

The recent cluster of tornadoes in the south ravaged Kentucky as well as Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee, leaving a path of devastation in their wake. Many lost their lives, and over 275,000 people were left without power. 

Dealing with the aftermath of a storm is stressful enough—and dealing with your insurance policy shouldn’t add extra stress.

If you have a Lemonade Homeowners or Renters policy, we wanted to take a minute to clearly explain the basics: What are you covered for when it comes to tornado damage?

FYI: power outages alone aren’t covered in your policy, but more on that later.

In addition, we’ve included some resources via our friends at the Red Cross (you can also find their helpful tips and advice here).

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Is tornado damage covered by my insurance?
What isn’t covered?
Am I covered if I have to leave my house due to a power outage
How can I protect my home from tornado damage?
What resources are available for those affected by tornados?

Is damage caused by a tornado covered by renters or homeowners insurance? 

In short, yes. But as always, individual circumstances can vary, and it’s important to take a look at your own policy.

Tornadoes are classified as a “windstorm”, which is one of the named perils on your policy—meaning an event that Lemonade will help pay for. Keep in mind that you also have a deductible to pay, and your own policy will come with certain limits, depending on the coverage you chose when you signed up.

Windstorms include tornados as well as things like high winds, cyclones, and hurricanes.

If you’re a homeowner:

Some common damage to your home that can happen as the result of a tornado includes roof damage, shattered windows and sliding doors, damage to the garage door, and damage to your home’s siding. This would all likely be covered by your homeowners insurance policy.

Additionally, damage to your personal belongings would also be covered, depending on the specific cause. For instance, if a tornado causes a partial roof collapse—and this leads to damage of your home electronics, appliances, or furniture—these belongings would be eligible for coverage.

If you’re a renter:

You don’t own the physical structure you’re renting, so your renters insurance policy does not cover it (that would be the responsibility of your landlord and their insurance). But your renters insurance would cover tornado-related damage to your personal property—whether it is inside your home or apartment or not. 

For instance, let’s say tornado winds smash a window, leading to personal property damage. This would likely be covered. But the same also applies if you have a bicycle locked up to the gate in front of your apartment—if a tornado destroyed the bike, it would be eligible for coverage.

Exceptions to coverage

Take note that in the event of a tornado, as per usual, you won’t be covered for any damage from flooding. This is generally not a concern in the aftermath of tornadoes, however. But it’s still good to have a handle on how your insurance policy treats flood damage—you can read about that here

Also, your car is not considered “personal property” covered by your homeowners or renters policy. So if a tornado causes a tree to collapse on your car, that would fall under the domain of your auto insurance.

Can I file a Loss of Use claim when my power goes out due to bad weather?

The Loss of Use section of your Lemonade Homeowners or Renters policy can help out with costs if your place becomes unlivable due to certain specific circumstances—windstorms included. 

Here’s the tough news: Power outages, without other physical damage to the building itself, aren’t covered as part of your policy. Such outages are common in the U.S. due to all sorts of bad or inclement weather, and renters and home policies have limited coverage unless there is actual damage to your home. 

Your insurance also won’t cover you for any frozen or refrigerated food that might be ruined due to a power outage.

That said, if you’re forced out of your home for a period of time due to additional tornado-related damages to your property—not solely a power outage—then this is a different scenario. If your property lost its power, but your home also had extensive damage to the roof and physical structure that made it unsafe to stay there, then you may well be eligible for Loss of Use.

Protect your home from tornadoes

If you live in an area that is prone to tornadoes, there are steps you can take to reinforce your home and stop damage before it happens. 

In the months/weeks leading up to the storm  

While most tornadoes in the U.S. happen March through June, there have been tornadoes documented every month of the year, with climate change making patterns of extreme weather even more unpredictable. Recent events are a prime example of that. 

  • Reinforce your roof. Have a professional install hurricane clips to the inside of your roof. This will help prevent your roof getting lifted off in a windstorm. 
  • Replace/reinforce your windows. You can install temporary storm shutters, or have a professional install permanent ones.Or you can invest in impact-resistant windows.
  • Secure your cabinet doors. Use child-proof latches or sliding bolts.  
  • Attach large pieces of furniture. Keep your bookcases or closets attached to the wall using furniture anchors

The Red Cross also has some terrific information about how to prep for a possible power outage in advance of catastrophic weather.

Immediately before a tornado 

If a tornado’s touchdown is imminent, seek shelter preferably in a basement or stairwell (or any room without windows). If you’ve been given a few days’ warning, there are some quick things you can do to protect your home. 

  • Clear your yard. Store all items, including lawn furniture, so they don’t get picked up by the storm and flung at the outside of your home. 
  • Remove branches. Dead and dying branches can be easily ripped off trees by high winds, which can be launched at your or your neighbor’s homes. Also, have branches removed that might interfere with power lines. 
  • Collect documents. Gather things like the deed to your home, Social Security cards, birth certificates, passports, bank account information, and your insurance policies. You’ll want to keep these items safe, and in some cases you’ll need them if you file an insurance claim (with Lemonade, you’d be able to access your policy information directly on your phone). 

After a tornado 

Even after the storm has cleared, your home is still at risk, especially if it was damaged in the tornado’s path. 

  • If your lights are flickering, dimming, or buzzing. You might have electrical damage. Find your fuse box and turn off the power to avoid electrical fires and other electricity-related incidents. 
  • If you smell gas. Your gas tank might be damaged. Immediately turn off the main valve and keep yourself and your family away from your gas source as much as possible until a professional arrives. 
  • If your running water is discolored or low-pressure. You may have a broken water line. Prevent flooding and water damage by shutting off the main meter (near the street), and the water line that leads to your house.  

What other resources do I have available to me? 

The Red Cross has set up Open Shelters around the affected areas, where anyone can seek out a safe place to sleep, as well as access to food, medical services, laundry, childcare, and more. 

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Please note: Lemonade articles and other editorial content are meant for educational purposes only, and should not be relied upon instead of professional legal, insurance or financial advice. The content of these educational articles does not alter the terms, conditions, exclusions, or limitations of policies issued by Lemonade, which differ according to your state of residence. While we regularly review previously published content to ensure it is accurate and up-to-date, there may be instances in which legal conditions or policy details have changed since publication. Any hypothetical examples used in Lemonade editorial content are purely expositional. Hypothetical examples do not alter or bind Lemonade to any application of your insurance policy to the particular facts and circumstances of any actual claim.