David Pitt, AP Personal Finance Writer
Seven Southern states continue the clean up after tornadoes killed hundreds and leveled entire communities. It was the country's worst natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina.
Unusual weather events have raised more than a few eyebrows in recent years. Indeed insurance claims suggest storms are stronger and more frequent.
Losses from thunderstorms last year totaled $9.5 billion, the third highest ever, behind 2009 and 2008, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
Thunderstorm losses now average five times the level recorded in the early 1980s.
Even winter storm losses last year reached $2.6 billion, making 2010 one of the top five worst winters for property damage.
Not only have we seen more active and violent weather patterns, but more people live in catastrophe-prone areas, says Scott Spencer, worldwide home appraisal and loss prevention manager with insurer Chubb Group.
The Insurance Information Institute says about 10.2 million people lived in the path of Atlantic hurricanes in 1950. It's now approaching 40 million.
With more frequent storms and more people living in their path, there's a higher likelihood that property and lives will be affected.
"We need to stop thinking that's never going to happen to me and start thinking what am I going to do when it does," Spencer said.
While such concerns are fresh in your mind, it's a good time to evaluate homeowner's insurance coverage and preparedness plans.
—Replacement value: Damage from a tornado or hurricane could range from minimal wind or debris strikes to complete destruction. One of the most important sections of your policy is how it handles repair or replacement. It's wise to review coverage every year because building costs can rise. For example, higher petroleum prices are driving up the cost of asphalt shingles, plastic pipes, and other materials.
If you have an older home, building codes have likely changed and upgrades will have to be incorporated into any new construction. Your insurance agent can help you evaluate your replacement value and adjust policy coverage. For your own research, a simple calculator is located on Homeinsurance.com online. A more detailed calculator that considers various factors such as materials used and design features is located online.