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Tornado influx hurts communities in South, Midwest

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Bob Moon: They’re mourning loved ones and assessing damage across the Midwest and South this week, in the aftermath of as many as 80 tornadoes, that left 40 people dead.  

Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman has been checking in on the recovery. Mitchell, you have to wonder — how do they even start picking up the pieces from such total devastation in some of those communities?

Hartman: Well Bob, what’s happening now — in addition to sheltering people and caring for the injured — is assessing the economic losses. That breaks down roughly to homes — they’re going to need to be repaird, in some cases they’ll be a total loss and will have to be rebuilt; cars wrecked from the wind and the flying debris; and businesses unable to reopen.

We asked Matthew Nielsen of Risk Management Solutions how this start to the 2012 tornado season compares to last year. You’ll remember the huge tornadoes that hit Tuscaloosa, Ala., and also Joplin, Mo.

Matthew Nielsen: And certainly this was a bad event for some small towns. It’s not looking like it’s anything near what we saw last year yet with the Alabama outbreak, a $7.3 billion insured event, or even the Joplin, which was $6.9 billion. Most likely this will be more down towards the $1 billion to $2 billion range.

Moon: And how do they figure this out so quickly after the storms hit?

Hartman: Nielsen told us the insurance industry sends out people called “catastrophe risk modelers” right after the storms. And what they do, basically, is compare maps of where there was residential and commercial building, to the actual path and wind strength of the tornadoes. The goal is to try to figure out roughly how much dollar-value was lost. And of course these small towns are just beginning to deal with the human cost of these storms.

Moon: Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman, thank you.

Hartman: You’re welcome.

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