On the night of February 26th, at least seven tornadoes tore through the Oklahoma City area, setting the record for most active tornadoes in February in Oklahoma history.1 The tornados and accompanying high wind speeds and hail caused widespread destruction and at least twelve injuries – thankfully, none of which are reported to be fatal.2 At the storm’s peak, OG&E reported 33,000 people were without power.3 The bulk of tornado damage occurred in Norman, Oklahoma – where I live – but the storm system caused damage throughout the south-central US, with 114 mile per hour winds reported in Texas.4 Photos of destroyed buildings, downed trees and powerlines, and flipped cars covered front pages Monday morning, highlighting just how extensive the damage is.

Every time a disaster like this occurs, Merlin Law Group attorneys gear up for an influx of policyholders needing help after their claims are denied or underpaid in the aftermath. For those who suffered a loss and are trying to figure out their next steps, this blog is full of helpful information – here, here, and here is a good place to start. This 2011 post offers a helpful, 12-point checklist for anyone making a tornado claim, which includes documenting all the damage before cleaning up, noting every communication between the policyholder and insurer, rapidly mitigating to prevent further damage, and requesting frequent updates to ensure the claim doesn’t get lost amid hundreds of others.

Norman is home to the University of Oklahoma and, as a college town, is full of student renters – many of whom likely have no idea how to proceed with a claim under their renter’s insurance. Again, compiling evidence of all the damage is paramount. Rental insurance may also provide coverage for additional living expenses, so displaced renters need to keep all receipts for hotel rooms, meals, and other living expenses incurred as a result of the loss. While the renter’s claim and the landlord’s claim will be separate, they should work together to accurately and fully document the loss and all resulting expenses.

Not long after the storm subsided late Sunday night and into the early hours of Monday morning, friends and neighbors were out working hard alongside cleanup crews to clear away the wreckage and begin to rebuild. I’ve lived in Oklahoma for over a decade, and, while these disasters never get easier, I am always in awe of my community’s resilience and empathy in the aftermath.

1 https://www.koco.com/article/oklahoma-severe-weather-timeline-tornadoes-strong-winds-storms/43082123

2 https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/26/us/oklahoma-severe-weather-winds.html

3 Id.

4 https://www.accuweather.com/en/severe-weather/tornadoes-destroy-homes-leave-several-injured-across-central-us/1489460