Travel Insurance

Tornadoes and Travel Insurance

Tornadoes and Travel Insurance

Tornadoes are among the most destructive forces of nature. The last thing anyone wants to see during their vacation is green skies and funnel clouds moving in their direction. Tornadoes can generate some of the strongest winds on the planet, the most extreme wind speeds measuring in at more than 300 miles (500 km) per hour. The vast majority of tornado-related damage, injuries, and death are caused by flying debris and structures collapsing. The following is a basic overview of where and when tornadoes are most likely to occur, as well as of the benefits that travel insurance, visitors to USA medical insurance, and travel outside U.S. medical insurance can provide in the event of a tornado.

Where Tornadoes Happen

Tornadoes are most common in middle latitudes, between 20° and 60° N and S. The United States reports the highest annual number of tornadoes by far, at more than 1,000 per year since 1990. Canada reports the second-largest number at about 80 to 100 per year. Regions like Argentina, Bangladesh, Australia, New Zealand, many parts of Europe, and far east Asia also report a sizable number of the storms annually. Keep in mind, however, that any tornadoes that touch down in uninhabited areas go unseen and thus undocumented.

The central portion of the U.S. (namely, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and others) has been referred to as "Tornado Alley" for its frequency of the storms. However, this nickname can be misleading, as tornadoes can and do occur in all 50 states. According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, tornadoes are most frequent in the southeast during the cooler months of the year, the southern and central Plans during May and June, and the northern Plains and the Midwest during early summer.

In South America, the region known as the Tornado Corridor runs through central Argentina, southern Paraguay, southeastern Brazil, and Uruguay, and it is known for the second-highest frequency of tornadoes in the world. During spring, summer, and early fall, thunderstorms are frequently strong enough to become supercells and result in disasters like hailstorms, tornadoes, and flooding.

When Tornadoes Occur

Tornadoes are most common during spring, although seasonal transitions during both spring and autumn create weather conditions that lead to thunderstorms and tornadoes. In the U.S., peak tornado season is between March and June. In Europe, especially Finland, Germany, and Austria, the peak month for tornadoes is July. However, it is important to note that tornadoes can occur at any time: At least one tornado has been reported on every calendar day of the year. About 75% of all tornadoes are reported between March and July, with peak months of April, May, and June. Tornadoes are least common during the winter months, due to the lack of warm air needed to produce thunderstorms and conditions that lead to tornado activity.

Again, in the U.S., different parts of the country have different peak seasons. In the southern plains (Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas), they occur most frequently in May and early June. Along the Gulf Coast, they occur earlier in the spring. In the northern Plains and upper Midwest (North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Iowa), June and July see the highest number of storms.

Tornadoes can also happen at any time of day. They are most frequently reported, however, between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Tornadoes and Travel Insurance

Insurance companies categorize tornadoes as a natural disaster. Unlike some natural disasters (like hurricanes or volcanic eruptions), tornadoes occur with relatively little advance warning. Therefore, it would be best to be prepared and to purchase insurance well in advance of your trip. Provisions for natural disaster coverage, including tornadoes, are available in travel insurance, travel medical insurance, and visitors medical insurance.

Tornado insurance coverage in travel insurance, which is available to both U.S. and non-U.S. residents, includes the benefits of trip cancellation and trip interruption. Regarding trip cancellation, an insured would be eligible to make a claim if a tornado were to destroy his point of destination (like an airport or hotel) or cause flight cancellations for at least 24 hours. If a tornado occurred during the vacation itself, trip interruption insurance would provide reimbursement for any remaining non-refundable trip costs, as well as (possibly) alternate transportation or lodging arrangements.

For trip cancellation coverage to work, however, be aware that the tornado must prevent the traveler from following through on his or her travel plans. In the event that a tornado strikes a traveler’s destination the week before his trip is scheduled to occur, it must cause damage like the destruction of his hotel, arrival airport, rental car agency, or other institutions to which he has paid a non-refundable deposit in order to be reimbursed. U.S. residents also have the option of cancel for any reason travel insurance, which would give travelers more leeway to decide whether the trip is safe or still worth taking and cancel accordingly.

Travel medical insurance is intended for international travel plans excluding the U.S. They are available to U.S. citizens and residents as well as foreign nationals when travel does not include the U.S. Visitors medical insurance is designed for international travel to the U.S. Most visitors medical insurance plans are available primarily to foreign nationals; some of these plans are available to U.S. citizens who do not live in the U.S. and are returning to the U.S. for a brief visit. Some plans include these type of provisions related to tornado activity: natural disaster evacuation, trip interruption (or interruption of trip), and natural disaster-replacement accommodations.

Certain travel insurance plans may include a provision that if a catastrophic event like a tornado causes severe damage to someone's home while he is travelling abroad, trip interruption insurance would cover the cost of a one-way, economy class ticket back home so that the insured can assess the damage as soon as possible. Make sure to check the certificate wording for potential limits to this and any other benefit.

Similarly, certain visitors medical insurance and travel medical insurance plans will either fund or reimburse travelers for the cost of evacuation in the event of a natural disaster. This coverage is available once the insured submits a receipt of proof of payment for the accommodations from which they were displaced, or for any expenses that arise directly or indirectly from anything in the General Exclusions portion of a given policy. Different plans provide varying levels of coverage.

Finally, some visitor health insurance plans include an explicit natural disaster replacement accommodations benefit. If a natural disaster (like a tornado) occurs and displaces the insured parties from their planned and paid accommodations, it will provide a daily stipend for a limited number of days to help cover the cost of replacement accommodations.


The point of insurance is to protect against the uncertain, and nothing is more uncertain than a natural disaster. Don’t let a tornado ruin your vacation. If you have any further questions about natural disaster coverage in travel insurance, please contact our licensed, experienced agents by phone or email.

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