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February 11, 2014

Oklahoma leads U.S. in 2013 disaster costs

Oklahoma was the nation's costliest state for natural-disaster claims last year as tornadoes spurred payouts.

Oklahoma had $2 billion in insured catastrophe expenses, followed by Texas at $1.51 billion, the Insurance Information Institute said Tuesday. No. 3 Colorado, with $907 million in losses, was hit by wildfires.

Natural disasters cost insurers about $12.8 billion in 2013, the least since 2009, according to the institute. Losses were $35 billion the previous year, when Superstorm Sandy struck the East Coast. New York had the highest costs in 2012, with $9.76 billion, followed by New Jersey at $6.37 billion.

"Hurricanes like 2012's Sandy generate headlines, even though it is the frequency and severity of tornadoes that has grown in recent years," Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, said in a statement.

All 10 of the costliest tornadoes in the U.S. occurred since 2001, led by twisters in 2011 that struck Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Joplin, Mo.

Texas is the only state to be among the five costliest for insurers in the each of the past three years. The state ranked No. 3 in 2012 and first in 2011. Texas, which borders the Gulf of Mexico, is also more vulnerable to hurricanes than most states in the "Tornado Alley" region. Hurricane Ike struck Galveston in 2008.

From 1983 to 2012 Texas had $49 billion in costs, or about 10 percent of the total in the country. That ranks behind only Florida, which had $66.7 billion in losses, according to the institute. Florida is the fourth-most populous state, trailing New York, Texas and California.

Florida wasn't among the top five in 2013 costs. The lower- than-average damage from East Cost storms benefited companies including Allstate, the largest publicly traded U.S. home and auto insurer. Allstate gained 36 percent last year in New York trading.

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