12:17 PM

Rare December tornado stuns Taylorville, Illinois


American Family Insurance claim adjusters and agents help customers in central Illinois recover after tornado.

It was a devastating weekend for dozens of people in Taylorville, Illinois, just southeast of Springfield, who are picking up the pieces from a rare December tornado. In fact, just an hour after one customer finished putting up her Christmas lights outside, the tornado tore through her neighborhood.

Helping customers after destructive tornado strikes Taylorville

“When I talk with customers there is often a sense of relief that they made it through the storm alive, even though their house sustained significant damage,” says American Family Insurance large loss adjuster Grant Allen.

“One of our customers had just finished putting up holiday decorations outside when she heard the sirens, grabbed a pillow and some bottled water and huddled for safety in her basement,” Allen said.

Given the time of year, American Family’s quick response helps alleviate some of the stress customers can experience in recovering from the storm, especially during the holiday season.

Allen is part of a claims team who, along with local agents, descended on Taylorville over the weekend to immediately help customers assess their damage and quickly get them payments to repair or rebuild their homes.

What adjusters and agents did to reach customers

American Family Insurance has received about two dozen claims including a handful of severely damaged homes. “We’re reaching out to additional customers, most of them renters, that were in the path of the tornado who haven’t filed a claim yet, to make sure they are OK,” says Jeff Jagla, claims property operations director.

Claims staff including Jeremy Andersen, Nathan Meigs and James Kirkpatrick worked with agents Mark Shelite, Steven Clark and their staffs to contact policyholders in the storm’s path.

“It was truly a seamless partnership, from the agents making sure customers were okay and filed claims, to our staff checking with insureds to find out if they needed housing or assistance protecting their homes from further damage,” said Jeremy Andersen, property claims field large loss manager.

News reports indicate the tornado was comprised of multiple funnel clouds rotating around one another which may have explained the varying level of damage from one house to the next. Illinois’ governor declared a state of emergency for Christian County because of the destruction caused by the EF-3 (Enhanced Fujita) tornado with winds of 136 to 165 mph.

How are Taylorville residents helping each other?

Right after the storm, Taylorville High School students (whose mascot is ironically - the Tornadoes) stepped up to help with clean up.

“As I was assessing the damage at one home, a few dozen students, coaches and teachers whirled in with chainsaws and cleared the yard of large fallen trees,” Allen said.

A relief fund has been set up to collect monetary donations for immediate needs: food, clothing, medicine and school supplies.

American Family offers safeguards to tornado victims

Working with the Illinois Department of Insurance, American Family Insurance is giving customers who reside in Christian county and were affected by the tornado more time to pay their insurance premiums. American Family is also temporarily suspending any underwriting initiated policy cancellations or non-renewals of affected customers.

Customers in Christian county should contact their agent or call 800-MYAMFAM immediately if they need additional time to make premium payments as a result of this storm. An extension will also be considered for other policy provisions that may include a time limit such as submission of a claim or completing a required repair.

Illinois customers who have a disaster-related dispute or issue may contact the Illinois Department of Insurance at 1-866-445-5364 or file a complaint online at

American Family Insurance adjusters and agents will continue to work with customers in the central, Illinois community for as long as it takes to assist people on the road to recovery.



What damages to my property might be covered?

Your homeowners insurance policy provides coverage for damage to your home and personal property caused by wind/tornado, hail, fire and smoke.

Can I get an emergency advance payment?

Yes. If you have a covered loss and need emergency funds, we can provide you an advance payment. This advance payment will be applied to your final claim settlement.

Does my policy have coverage for boarding pets?

Yes, your homeowners policy covers the cost of temporarily boarding domestic pets, other than livestock, if civil authorities prohibit access to your home. Keep copies of the receipts for your adjuster.

Can I start to make repairs to prevent further damage?

You should protect your property immediately against further damage and theft. Use plywood, tarps or other materials to cover broken windows and damaged rooftops. Keep the receipts of any materials/services that you purchase to make these repairs so your adjuster can review them and reimburse you for expenses covered by your policy.

Do I have coverage to replace damaged trees or remove tree debris caused by the storm?

Homeowners insurance generally does not cover damage to trees or the removal of tree debris from the property. If a tree has fallen on your home and caused damage, however, we pay to cut away that part of the tree so repairs can be made; most policies pay up to $500 for removing that part of the tree from the property. Check your policy for specific coverage.

The storm caused a neighbor's tree to fall on my house? Whose insurance company should I report my claim to - the neighbor's or mine?

Report the claim to American Family Insurance. Since the cause of damage was an act of nature, your insurance policy applies. If the roles were reversed and a tree from your property fell on your neighbor's home, the neighbor's insurance policy would apply.

How will the inspection process work?

If your home has sustained damage, an adjuster will contact you at one of the phone numbers you provided when you reported your claim. The two of you will schedule an inspection of your home, after which the adjuster will develop an estimate and issue payment for repairs covered by your policy.

Who do I call to make repairs?

You are free to select any contractor (home) or repair shop (auto) you wish. It is usually best to select one who has operated in the area for several years, is insured and bonded and gives you a written guarantee for the work performed.

About American Family Insurance

Madison, Wisconsin-based American Family Insurance group is the nation's 13th-largest property/casualty insurance group and ranks No. 311 on the Fortune 500 list. The company sells American Family-brand products, including auto, homeowners, life, business and farm/ranch insurance, primarily through its exclusive agents in 19 states. American Family affiliates (The General and Homesite) also provide options for consumers who want to manage their insurance matters directly over the internet or by phone. Affiliate Main Street America sells insurance products through independent agents. Web; Facebook; Twitter