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BLOOMINGTON -- Calling damages from recent severe storms and tornadoes equivalent to a "spring hurricane," State Farm Insurance Cos. said Friday that it has already paid out $2.5 billion on catastrophe claims this year.

That figure, which is expected to rise, is already nearing what the Bloomington-based insurer typically pays out in catastrophe losses in an average entire year -- about $3.8 billion on 800,000 claims.

State Farm said it has already paid $916 million on home, business and auto catastrophe claims from April and May's barrage of storms and tornadoes. The insurer said that figure is expected to rise as claim representatives work with policyholders in hard-hit areas stretching from the southern and central U.S. to the East Coast. For instance, the $916 million does not yet include this week's storms in Texas, Oklahoma or Joplin, Mo.

So far, policyholders have reported nearly 300,000 catastrophe claims from the spring storms, including some that have already been paid out and others still being processed, said State Farm spokesman Phil Supple.

"The country has been hit hard with an unprecedented succession of horrible weather and horrific losses," State Farm Executive Vice President Brian Boyden said in a statement. "From the claims volume and types and extent of damage, you can easily characterize these storms as a ‘spring hurricane.'"

If categorized as one event, the three most devastating April hailstorms, windstorms and tornadoes would be the seventh-costliest homeowners catastrophe in State Farm's 90-year history, the insurer said.

No. 1 on that list is 2005's Hurricane Katrina, when State Farm had 400,000 reported claims and paid out more than $3.8 billion. Together with hurricanes Wilma (No. 6 on the "costliest" list) and Rita (No. 8), the 2005 hurricane season cost State Farm $6.3 billion.

State Farm's 2005 profit fell 39 percent from the year before, to $3.2 billion. In 2008, when catastrophe losses again totaled $6.3 billion, a sinking stock market led to a net operating loss of $542 million.

Meanwhile, more than 4,300 claims professionals have been deployed across the U.S., in more than 147 separate claims offices, in addition to local agents, their staffs and call centers. State Farm said its Jacksonville, Fla., catastrophe operations center, for example, handled more than 32,000 calls on one day in April.

"We're gratified to be there to help our neighbors recover," Boyden said. "Many have lost homes and seen the communities we both live in devastated."

Reporter Ryan Denham can be reached at twitter.com/ryanpantagraph

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