Canadian Underwriter

Get ready for hundreds of claims from Barrie twister

July 21, 2021   by Greg Meckbach

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The industry will probably see well over 200 claims from the July 15 tornado that hit Barrie, Ont., says a wind damage expert who has looked at the affected area.

“I expect the total number of damaged houses was about 200 – that kind of range,” Western University engineering professor Greg Kopp told Canadian Underwriter Tuesday.

Kopp led a storm damage assessment team that travelled July 15 to Barrie, about 100 kilometres north of Toronto. In southeast Barrie, a tornado measuring 2 on the Enhanced Fujita scale touched down at about 2:30 p.m. Published reports indicate eight people were injured badly enough to need hospital treatment.

The 200 damaged houses could conceivably include homes that are totally destroyed as well as homes that need less than $5,000 worth of repairs, plus “everything in between,” Kopp suggested.

“I expect there to be a lot more claims than that,” said Kopp, an expert in mitigating damage to structures during extreme wind storms such as tornadoes and hurricanes. Western’s engineering department is affiliated with the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction.

At the time of writing, it was too early for the industry to estimate the exact insured cost of the July 15 tornado.

Kopp’s prediction that more than 200 Barrie homeowners will file claims is based in part on his experience surveying tornado damage in 2014 in Angus, Ont., a community about 20 kilometres west of Barrie.

“Angus was small enough that we tried to find every single house with any damage,” Kopp said of the 2014 disaster. “And there were far more claims than houses [where] we found exterior damage, [based on] walking the sidewalk and walking the backyard.”

Published reports indicate the July 15, 2021 Barrie tornado may have totally destroyed about 70 homes, of which at least 20 lost their roofs.

Quoting Environment Canada, Canadian Press reported the damage path of the July 15 tornado was about five kilometres long and up to 100 metres wide.

“Unsurprisingly, we saw quite a few roofs off,” Kopp told Canadian Underwriter July 20. “There was a lot of debris. I have never seen so many broken car windows. There were broken house windows. We are used to seeing that.”

Kopp explained why some homes lost roofs.

“When the wind blows over houses, it wants to the lift the roof up. It is the same physics that gets an airplane in the air. I think that most of us, when we think of well-built houses, think of something where the walls are strong enough to hold up the roof. But in a wind storm, you need to think about it the opposite way. You need to hold the roof down. So the fasteners become the critical element. So if [whatever is fastening the roof to the walls is] not placed properly, the houses are vulnerable,” said Kopp.

Feature image THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

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