The December 2013 ice storm in southern Ontario and eastern Canada resulted in $200 million in insured losses and pushed the year-end severe weather insured loss total to $3.2 billion, which is the highest in Canadian history, reports Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).
The losses of 2013 came after four years in a row of natural disaster losses for the insurance industry that hit the $1 billion mark.
“In 2013, the terrible effects of the new weather extremes hit Canadians hard. From the Alberta floods last summer to the ice storms in Ontario and Atlantic Canada over the holidays, frankly, bad weather hit insurers hard, too,” says Don Forgeron, president and CEO, IBC.
“I’m very proud of how the home, car and business insurance industry performed during these difficult times. We responded quickly to disasters when Canadians needed us most. Despite unprecedented losses, we were there for Canadians through each and every high-cost disaster. And we are contributing new ideas and leadership for adapting to severe weather in the future,” Forgeron says.
The largest insured disaster – and Canada’s costliest natural disaster ever – was the torrential rainfall that flooded towns in southern Alberta last June. Insured damage for that storm was more than $1.74 billion.
“These unprecedented losses have been very difficult for Albertans. Many homes and businesses were destroyed. Rebuilding will go on for some time to come, and our industry will continue to be there to fulfill its important role,” says Bill Adams, vice-president, Western and Pacific Region, IBC.
In July, a record rainfall caused flash flooding in Toronto that resulted in $940 million in damages. The flooding was the most expensive insured natural disaster in Ontario’s history and the second-most expensive weather event this year.
In the December ice storms that hit southern Ontario and eastern Canada, most of the $200 million in claims were for homes damaged by trees that fell as a result of ice buildup. Ontario-based insurers also paid more than $25 million in claims for vehicles damaged in the storm.
Other natural disasters in 2013 included the severe thunderstorm that hit central and southern Ontario and southwest Quebec in July causing around $200 million in damage and the band of powerful thunderstorms that hit Quebec and Ontario in June with damage amounting to over $50 million.
“Canadian communities are seeing more severe weather, especially more intense rainfall. This overburdens our sewer and stormwater infrastructure, resulting in more sewer backups in homes and businesses,” states Forgeron. “Property and casualty insurers are collaborating with all three levels of government to help Canadians adapt to these new weather realities,” he adds.
Faced with these unrelenting losses, Canada’s insurance industry continues to seek out solutions. For example, after several years of research and development, IBC recently unveiled a new predictive tool for municipalities to help them pinpoint vulnerabilities in their sewer and stormwater infrastructure – weaknesses that could lead to costly sewer backups and basement flooding.
The new technology, called MRAT for “municipal risk assessment tool,” combines information about municipal infrastructure, current and future climate, and past insurance claims to give city engineers a new and revealing picture of where their infrastructure is vulnerable now and will be vulnerable in 2020 and in 2050.
IBC launched MRAT in November as a pilot project in partnership with three municipalities – Coquitlam, BC, Fredericton, NB, and Hamilton, ON. MRAT will help municipalities identify vulnerabilities in their sewer and stormwater infrastructure in order to prioritize improvements to prevent sewer backups and keep basements dry.
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