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Tornado insurance: putting a price on disaster

The Story


Quick! List every single item you own, and how much it would cost to replace it all. That was the task facing Ken Sutton, who lost everything in the 1985 Barrie tornado. When he finally managed to put a dollar figure on his loss, it turned out to be twice the $10,000 limit he found in the small print on his insurance policy. CBC Television's Marketplace looks at the common predicament of tornado underinsurance. 

Medium: Television
Program: Marketplace
Broadcast Date: Dec. 11, 1985
Guest: Ken Sutton
Hosts: Bill Paul, Christine Johnson
Duration: 12:26

Did You know?


• According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, most homeowner policies include coverage for tornadoes. Tornadoes are considered a windstorm, and are random and unpredictable. By contrast, some other disasters such as flooding are considered to be related to the location of the home, and are therefore not covered.

• For both home and contents insurance, the estimated value can be determined by both information from the homeowner and input from an insurance adjustor.

• Tornadoes may be random and unpredictable, but in 1990 a twister struck Ted Wagner's Saskatchewan farm for the second time in a year. Wagner told CBC Radio that he was on the telephone with an insurance agent, settling the details of his newly rebuilt hay barn, when the second tornado struck. The barn roof was torn off once again. None of his neighbours were affected.

• Because tornadoes carve a relatively narrow and seemingly random path of destruction, there are countless strange stories of their effects. According to David Phillips' Blame it on the Weather, Canadian twisters have plucked the wheels off automobiles, lifted a locomotive and put it back on the track facing the wrong way, ripped asphalt right off a road, sucked small lakes dry and spread millions of tiny toads across the ground.

• Environment Canada puts the odds of dying from a tornado at 12 million to one.

• In the United States, the National Safety Council in 2002 listed the American lifetime odds of dying in a tornado or "cataclysmic storm" at 59,127 to one. By comparison, they put the chances of being killed by lightning at 56,439 to one, and being killed in a transport accident at 77 to one. The odds of dying from heart disease are five to one.


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Deadly Skies: Canada's Most Destructive Tornadoes more