Damage from Alabama's deadly tornadoes could approach the state's record of $2 billion from Hurricane Ivan in 2004, Alabama's insurance commissioner said Wednesday.
Insurance commissioner Jim Ridling said early insurance industry estimates put the damage across the South at $2 billion to $5 billion. He said Alabama's numbers won't be available for a few days, but he expects the numbers to exceed the $1 billion in damage to insured property during Hurricane Katrina in 2004 and approach the $2 billion in damage to insured property during Ivan a year earlier.
"I've never seen anything this violent and this widespread," he said during a news conference with the governor and executives from five large insurance companies.
Gov. Robert Bentley said state officials learned during Ivan and Katrina that about 70 to 75 percent of Alabama's homeowners are insured for their losses. For those who are not, help is available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, he said.
Bentley said insurance companies have placed more than 20 mobile claims centers in 12 towns and are working to keep their commitments to Alabama policyholders.
Alabama has 38 of its 67 counties declared as disaster areas.
Bentley encouraged residents who suffered losses to contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency so that Alabama can have an accurate count of the damage. But he noted that historically, Southerners are reluctant to apply for aid because they think others need it worse than them.
The governor said he has been pleased with the response with everyone from President Obama, who approved disaster assistance, to emergency response workers. But he said if there are any problems, the buck stops with him.
"The governor is responsible for this. I have to make sure everything runs smoothly," he said.