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Massachusetts Tornadoes 2011: Twisters Caused $200 Million In Damage

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SPRINGFIELD MASS TORNADO
Storm damage is seen a day after a tornado in Springfield, Mass., Thursday, June 2, 2011. Residents of 19 communities in central and western Massachusetts woke to widespread damage Thursday, a day after at least two late-afternoon tornadoes shocked emergency officials with their suddenness and violence and caused the state's first tornado-related deaths in 16 years. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill) | AP

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — Right after the tornado passed, Springfield homeowner Bill Winslow gathered his wife and two children into a huddle in their basement for a pep talk.

"We're Winslows," the corrections officer told his family on June 1st. "We're not letting this tree ruin our lives."

A 40-foot maple had crashed into their 1940s-era Cape-style home as a twister with a 160 mph wind speed touched down in Springfield's East Forest Park neighborhood.

Nearly a year later, Massachusetts officials gathered in the family's Gillette Avenue yard to announce that the June tornadoes caused about $200 million in damage to insured personal and commercial property in the state.

Members of Gov. Deval Patrick's administration said insurance companies have paid out claim money in 98 percent of those 11,500 tornado-related claims.

Four tornadoes touched down in Massachusetts during the 2011 storm, killing three people and damaging or destroying about 1,400 houses and 78 businesses in western and central Massachusetts.

The Winslows' home turned into a hub for neighbors to share meals in the immediate aftermath of the storm. With repairs to the house nearly finished, Kim Winslow said she believed the rebuilding went well in part because her family took an active role in sussing out damage by having independent experts examine the home.

"You can't just have insurance people come in and say 'This is what we're willing to give you,'" the 36-year-old Realtor said.

State officials said Tuesday that they based their overall insurance claim findings on data from the state's 25 biggest insurers. These damage totals don't include losses of uninsured property or damage to public infrastructure.

Administration officials also said individuals, homeowners and businesses have gotten about $26.7 million in federal assistance to cover uninsured losses.

State Insurance Commissioner Joe Murphy said homeowners who still are having problems settling insurance claims can call the state's consumer hotline for help at 877-563-4467.

A report from his office said claims that are still open appear related to paperwork delays and lingering disputes between insurance companies and policyholders about claim values.

"For those policy holders whose claims remain open, frustration and disappointment are understandable," the report read in part.

State Housing Secretary Greg Bialecki said Tuesday that progress has been made toward rebuilding properties since last year, and that state officials worked to intervene when consumers needed help to make the insurance system work.

State officials also cautioned homeowners to read their insurance policies to make sure they have enough coverage in case of another disaster. It was a sentiment the Winslows echoed.

"Just make sure you know what's in your policy," Kim Winslow said. "Be a smart consumer."

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