Canadian Underwriter

Europe Battered by Severe Thunderstorms

June 13, 2014  

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Severe thunderstorms have pummeled western and central Europe, bringing extremely strong and damaging winds, large hail, rampant lightning strikes, and heavy downpours.

Germany, France and Belgium have been the worst hit by the storms, though severe thunderstorms and high temperatures are affecting other areas as well. According to officials at catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide, the storms that hit Germany’s North Rhine Westphalia region are the worst in 20 years. 

Read: Tornadoes and Thunderstorms Caused $10.3B in Insured Losses in US Last Year

“Huge supercell thunderstorms have pummeled western and central Europe since June 7 due to a cold front that moved into the region from the west, immediately following a severe heat wave,” said Dr. Yucheng Song, senior scientist, AIR Worldwide. “High heat, growing humidity and strong temperature contrast set up the conditions for massive developments of severe weather in the region.”

There have been frequent reports of hail reaching 3 cm in diameter throughout North Rhine-Westphalia. In Baden-Württemberg an isolated hailstorm produced hailstones reaching a diameter of 7 cm, while 12 cm hailstones were reported in parts of France. Between 2 p.m. Monday and 8 a.m. Tuesday, more than 110,000 lightning bolts were reported in Germany, while over 23,000 were reported in France.

Read: Europe is a Reinsurance Buyer’s Market

“When built areas are subjected to the level of winds reported here, most of the damage comes from toppled trees and broken branches, as trees are in full leaf,” said Yörn Tatge, managing director, AIR Worldwide GmbH. “Strong winds can also damage cladding. In Europe, rooftops often experience tile damage, with many tiles broken and blown off due to wind force. Uplift of the roof edges allows the wind to penetrate underneath the roof membrane, which raises the pressure and can remove the roof covering. At very high wind speeds, the integrity of the entire structure can be compromised, particularly in cases where the roof provides the lateral stability by supporting the tops of the building’s walls. Hail and flying debris can cause extensive damage, particularly to autos and greenhouses.”

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This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.