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Tornado Damage 101: What to Expect When Disaster Strikes

Understanding Tornado Damage: A Crucial Guide

What damage does a tornado cause? Tornadoes can wreak havoc on commercial buildings, causing extensive damage. Here are the key types of damage you can expect:

  • Roof damage: Tornadoes often rip off shingles and flat roofs.
  • Window breakage: High winds and flying debris shatter windows.
  • Structural integrity: Tornadoes can compromise the structural soundness of buildings.
  • Flying debris: Objects become airborne missiles, damaging walls, and other surfaces.

Tornadoes are known for their unpredictable nature and immense destructive power, with winds exceeding 250 miles per hour. These violent storms can cause severe damage to commercial properties, including apartment complexes, office buildings, schools, and retail centers. Being prepared and informed about the potential damage they can cause is crucial for minimizing losses and recovering swiftly.

As an expert in handling large loss claims, I have seen how tornadoes can devastate properties and disrupt businesses. My extensive experience includes negotiating claims for property owners to ensure they receive the compensation they are entitled to.

By understanding what damage a tornado can cause, property owners can better prepare their buildings and navigate the insurance claim process effectively.

Detailed infographic on tornado damage to commercial buildings - what damage does a tornado cause infographic pillar-3-steps

What Damage Does a Tornado Cause?

Types of Tornado Damage to Commercial Buildings

Roof Damage
Tornadoes can easily rip off flat roofs and shingles from commercial buildings. The combination of high winds and flying debris can cause severe damage, leading to interior water damage and mold if not promptly addressed.

Window Breakage
Windows are highly vulnerable during a tornado. The intense pressure difference and flying debris can shatter windows, compromising the building’s structural integrity and exposing the interior to further damage.

Structural Integrity
The powerful winds of a tornado can cause walls to buckle, foundations to shift, and even collapse entire sections of a building. Inspecting structural damage requires professional assessments to ensure safety and proper repair.

Flying Debris
Flying debris can cause significant damage to the exterior walls of commercial buildings. This includes holes in siding, dents in metal panels, and damage to brickwork. Removing dead trees and securing loose items around your property can help mitigate some of this damage.

Common Tornado Insurance Claim Disputes

Policy Coverage
One common dispute involves what damages are covered under your policy. Ensure you understand your policy’s specifics to avoid surprises. Review it regularly and consider additional coverage if necessary.

Claim Denials
Insurers may deny claims based on exclusions or argue that the damage was pre-existing. Keeping detailed records and photos of the damage and your property’s condition before the tornado can help counter these claims.

Insurers might underestimate the cost of repairs or replacements. Hiring an independent public adjuster can provide a second opinion and help ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

Delay Tactics
Insurance companies sometimes delay the claims process, which can exacerbate property damage and lead to further financial strain. Stay persistent and consider legal action if necessary.

Navigating these disputes can be challenging, but understanding your rights and being well-prepared can significantly impact the outcome of your claim. For more detailed guidance on handling tornado damage claims, visit Insurance Claim Recovery Support.

Tornado damage - what damage does a tornado cause

How Tornadoes Form and Their Path of Destruction

Understanding how tornadoes form can help you grasp why they cause such extensive damage. Let’s break it down into key elements: supercell thunderstorms, wind shear, moisture, and atmospheric instability.

Supercell Thunderstorms

Tornadoes often form from supercell thunderstorms. These are powerful storms with a rotating updraft known as a mesocyclone. Supercells can produce large hail, damaging winds, and, of course, tornadoes. The rotation within the storm is crucial for tornado formation.

Wind Shear

Wind shear is the change in wind speed and direction with height. It plays a vital role in tornado development. When wind shear is strong, it can tilt the rotating updraft within a thunderstorm, making it more likely to produce a tornado. Weak wind shear, on the other hand, tends to result in less organized storms.


Moisture is another essential ingredient for tornado formation. High humidity levels near the ground provide the fuel for thunderstorms. As warm, moist air rises, it cools and condenses into clouds and rain. This process releases heat, which helps to maintain the storm’s strength.

Atmospheric Instability

Atmospheric instability occurs when warm, moist air near the ground is overlaid by cooler, drier air aloft. This setup causes the warm air to rise rapidly, creating strong updrafts. The more unstable the atmosphere, the more vigorous the updrafts, and the greater the potential for severe weather, including tornadoes.

Path of Destruction

Once a tornado forms, its path of destruction can be extensive. Tornadoes can carve out paths over a mile wide and more than 50 miles long. While most tornadoes are brief and relatively narrow, the most violent ones can cause catastrophic damage.

Understanding these elements helps explain why tornadoes are so powerful and destructive. Next, we’ll delve into the Enhanced Fujita (EF) Scale, which measures tornado strength and helps in assessing damage for insurance claims.

Estimating the Strength of a Tornado: The Enhanced Fujita Scale

The Enhanced Fujita (EF) Scale is the standard for rating the strength of tornadoes in the United States. It ranges from EF0 to EF5 and focuses on the damage caused by tornadoes to estimate their wind speeds.

EF0 to EF5: Understanding the Scale

  • EF0: Light damage. Wind speeds between 65-85 mph. Minor damage to roofs, gutters, and siding.
  • EF1: Moderate damage. Wind speeds between 86-110 mph. More significant roof damage, windows broken.
  • EF2: Considerable damage. Wind speeds between 111-135 mph. Roofs torn off, exterior walls damaged.
  • EF3: Severe damage. Wind speeds between 136-165 mph. Entire stories of buildings can be destroyed.
  • EF4: Devastating damage. Wind speeds between 166-200 mph. Well-built structures can be leveled.
  • EF5: Incredible damage. Wind speeds over 200 mph. Strong structures are completely swept away.

Damage Indicators and Wind Speed Estimation

The EF Scale uses 28 damage indicators like building types, structures, and trees. For each indicator, there are 8 degrees of damage, ranging from minor damage to complete destruction. This helps in estimating the wind speeds more accurately.

For example:
Flat Roofs: Vulnerable to being peeled off or entirely removed in EF2 and above.
Shingles: Can be stripped away in EF1 conditions, leading to water damage.
Windows: Often shattered in EF1, with more severe damage in higher categories.

How the EF Scale Affects Insurance Claims

Damage Assessment

Insurance adjusters use the EF Scale to assess the damage. They look at the specific indicators and degrees of damage to estimate wind speeds and categorize the tornado. This helps in determining the extent of the damage and the subsequent claim amount.

Claims Adjustment

Claims adjustment involves verifying the damage details and aligning them with the EF Scale. Adjusters may dispute claims if the damage doesn’t match the wind speeds or damage indicators of the reported tornado category.

Settlement Challenges

Policyholders often face challenges like claim denials, underpayment, or delay tactics. Knowing the EF Scale and damage indicators can help in disputing these issues effectively.

  • Claim Denials: Sometimes, insurers may argue that the damage isn’t consistent with the reported tornado category. Detailed documentation can counteract this.
  • Underpayment: Adjusters might underestimate the damage. Getting multiple repair estimates can help.
  • Delay Tactics: Insurers may delay payouts. Keeping detailed records of communications can speed up the process.

Understanding the EF Scale is crucial for accurate damage assessment and ensuring fair insurance settlements. Next, we’ll discuss how to prepare your business for a tornado to minimize potential damage.

Preparing Your Business for a Tornado

Protecting Against Flying Debris

When it comes to tornado preparedness, taking proactive steps can significantly minimize the damage to your commercial property. Here’s how you can safeguard your business against the destructive force of a tornado:

Emergency Plans

First, develop a comprehensive emergency plan. Ensure everyone in the building knows where to go and what to do when a tornado strikes. Designate a safe room or area away from windows and on the lowest floor. Practice tornado drills at least once a year to keep everyone prepared.

Structural Reinforcements

Strengthen your building to withstand high winds and flying debris. Consider:
– Installing storm shutters to protect windows.
– Reinforcing your garage and entry doors.
– Securing heavy furniture and appliances to the walls.
– Consulting with a structural engineer about tornado-resistant design features for new constructions or renovations.

Insurance Review

Annually review your insurance policy to ensure you have adequate coverage for tornado-related damages. Understand what is and isn’t covered under your policy, know your deductible, and how claims will affect your future premiums. This knowledge can be crucial during the claims process.

Impact-Resistant Windows

Invest in impact-resistant windows. These windows are designed to withstand high winds and flying debris, which are common during severe storms. They feature a layer of polyvinyl butyral (PVB) or ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) between two sheets of glass, creating a strong barrier that holds the glass in place even upon impact.

Secure Entryways

Ensure that all entryways are properly sealed. Gaps and cracks can allow wind to enter, increasing pressure inside the building and potentially leading to significant damage. Use weather stripping and caulking to seal these openings effectively. Regular checks are important, as seals can deteriorate over time.

Debris Shields

For added protection, consider installing debris shields. These can be made from various materials like metal, polycarbonate, or even plywood. Debris shields provide an additional layer of defense against high winds, significantly reducing the risk of windows breaking. They can be permanent fixtures or designed to be installed easily whenever severe weather is forecast.

By implementing these measures, you not only protect your physical property from the devastating impact of a tornado but also ensure the safety and well-being of everyone inside. Next, we will explore how proper landscaping and secure outdoor structures can further mitigate the risks associated with high winds.

Frequently Asked Questions about Tornado Damage

What is the most common damage caused by tornadoes?

The most common damage caused by tornadoes includes:

  • Roof Damage: Tornadoes can rip off shingles, damage flat roofs, or even lift entire roofs off buildings. This is often due to the pressure difference between the inside and outside of the building.

  • Window Breakage: Windows are highly vulnerable to flying debris and pressure changes, leading to breakage and exposing the interior to further damage.

  • Structural Integrity: Tornadoes can cause walls to buckle, foundations to shift, and even collapse entire sections of a building.

  • Flying Debris: Debris can puncture walls, break windows, and cause significant exterior damage.

How can businesses minimize tornado damage?

Businesses can take several steps to minimize tornado damage:

  • Reinforce Roofs: Ensure that flat roofs and shingles are securely attached. Using hurricane straps can help keep the roof in place.

  • Install Impact-Resistant Windows: These windows can withstand high winds and flying debris, reducing the risk of breakage.

  • Secure Exterior Walls: Inspect and repair loose siding, brickwork, and gutters to prevent them from becoming projectiles.

  • Remove Potential Projectiles: Clear dead trees, branches, and unsecured outdoor furniture that could become dangerous in high winds.

  • Emergency Plans: Develop and practice emergency plans to ensure everyone knows what to do when a tornado strikes.

What should you do immediately after a tornado?

After a tornado, it’s crucial to act quickly and safely:

  • Ensure Safety: Check for injuries and move to a safe location if the building is structurally compromised.

  • Document Damage: Take photos and notes of all visible damage. This will be crucial for filing insurance claims.

  • Prevent Further Damage: If safe to do so, cover broken windows and holes in the roof with tarps to prevent water damage.

  • Contact Professionals: Reach out to structural engineers or restoration companies to assess and repair the damage.

  • Notify Your Insurance Company: Report the damage as soon as possible. Use your documentation to support your claim.

  • Hire a Public Adjuster: Consider hiring a public adjuster from Insurance Claim Recovery Support to ensure you get a fair assessment and maximize your claim settlement. They can help navigate common disputes like policy coverage, claim denials, and underpayment.

By following these steps, you can help ensure a smoother recovery process and better protect your business from future tornadoes.

Next, we will explore how proper landscaping and secure outdoor structures can further mitigate the risks associated with high winds.


Navigating the aftermath of a tornado can be overwhelming. From assessing the damage to filing insurance claims, the process is complex and often stressful. Here’s how to streamline your recovery process and ensure you get the compensation you deserve.

Recovery Process

1. Assess the Damage:
Start by thoroughly inspecting your commercial property. Look for common types of tornado damage, including roof damage, window breakage, and compromised structural integrity. Pay special attention to flat roofs, shingles, windows, and exterior walls.

2. Document Everything:
Take detailed photos and videos of all damages. Keep a written record of everything, including the date and time of the tornado, as this will be crucial for your insurance claim.

3. Contact Your Insurance Company:
Report the damage as soon as possible. Be prepared to provide all your documentation and a detailed account of the damage.

Contacting Insurance Claim Recovery Support

When dealing with tornado damage, having an expert on your side can make a significant difference. That’s where we come in.

Hire a Public Adjuster:
Consider hiring a public adjuster from Insurance Claim Recovery Support. Our expert adjusters work for you, not the insurance company. We help navigate common disputes like policy coverage, claim denials, and underpayment, ensuring you get a fair assessment and maximize your settlement.

24/7 Emergency Line:
We offer a 24/7 emergency line to assist you immediately after a disaster. Quick action can prevent further damage and expedite your claim process.

Maximizing Settlements

One of our primary goals is to maximize your settlement. Tornado damage can be extensive, affecting roofs, windows, structural integrity, and more. We understand the intricacies of insurance policies and are adept at documenting and arguing for the fullest possible compensation.

For example, consider a commercial property owner in Dallas who faced $50,000 worth of tornado damage. By meticulously documenting every aspect of the damage and negotiating with the insurer, we helped them secure a settlement that fully covered their repair costs, minus the deductible.

Why Choose Insurance Claim Recovery Support?

  • Expertise: We specialize in weather-related claims, with a keen focus on tornadoes.
  • Commitment: Our goal is to ensure you receive a fair and prompt settlement.
  • Support: We stand with property owners in their journey to recovery, providing exceptional service and uncompromising support.

By following these steps and utilizing professional help, you can navigate the insurance claims process more effectively and ensure a fair settlement.

For more information on how we can assist you with your insurance claim, visit our Tornado Damage Claim Service Page. Let us help you navigate the path to recovery.

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