Canadian Underwriter

What we know so far about Canadian Hurricane Larry claims

September 12, 2021   by Greg Meckbach

The roof of Mary Queen of Peace elementary school was torn off after Hurricane Larry crossed over Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula in the early morning hours, in St. John's, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly

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Kent Rowe cannot remember winds as bad as they were this past weekend in the Newfoundland and Labrador capital.

“We saw gusts here in St. John’s of up to 145 kilometres an hour that lasted for about five or six hours,” Rowe, president of the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada, told Canadian Underwriter on Sunday.

“It was probably some of the worst winds I have experienced in my life,” Rowe said of Hurricane Larry, which moved through the province early Saturday morning. “It was quite nasty here for a bit. We did get a considerable amount of rain.”

Rowe is also vice-president of Wedgwood/Magnes Group in St. John’s.

Hurricane Larry made landfall at 3:45 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time (1:15 a.m. Newfoundland and Labrador time) Sept. 11 near South East Bight, Nfld., the United States National Hurricane Center reported.

“We are seeing a fair number of residential claims coming in,” said Rannoch Harley, Halifax-based branch manager, Atlantic Canada, with independent claims adjusting firm Crawford & Company (Canada) Inc., in an interview Sunday.

For its part, Wedgwood Insurance — a brokerage that places personal and commercial P&C insurance — had staff working the weekend.

“As of this morning, we had 35 calls [about] personal lines and one commercial loss reported,” Rowe said Sunday. He expects more clients will call on Monday to report claims.

As of Sunday, most of the personal lines claims reported by Wedgwood clients were losses such as shingles blown off roofs, fences blown over and decks that had fallen down.

“It was a busy day for those two staff people we had working yesterday,” said Rowe.

South East Bight is on the west side of Placentia Bay near the north end of the Burin Peninsula. As the crow flies, that is about 50 kilometres southwest of Come by Chance, 100 kilometres west of St. John’s and 100 kilometres northeast of the French territory of Saint-Pierre et Miquelon. When Larry made landfall, hurricane-force winds (maximum sustained winds of more than 119 kilometres per hour) extended 165 kilometres from the centre while there were tropical-storm-force winds (maximum sustained winds of 63 to 118 kilometres per hour) 400 kilometres from the centre, the U.S. National Hurricane Center reported.

After making landfall, Larry moved north-northeast at about 75 kilometres an hour, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

That took the storm track over Clarenville and Bonavista, Rowe noted.

“The storm was really fast-moving, which was fortunate,” Harley said. “There is pretty significant storm surge in some of the coastal areas. Chiefly we are talking about wind storm claims.”

“I know there was a lot of infrastructure damage in coastal communities — a lot of roads washed out and bridges damaged,” said Rowe, referring both to the southern part of the Avalon Peninsula and the Burin Peninsula. “Typically, when these systems track, winds are strongest to the east of the system and there is more precipitation to the west of it.”

As of Sunday, Harley said it was too early to tell whether the damage from the storm would meet the criteria for a catastrophe, which is $25 million in industry-wide insured losses. “We will probably have a better idea mid-week,” he said.

Crawford has licensed adjusters based in Newfoundland, as well as adjusters in other Atlantic provinces who are also licensed to adjust claims in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“In anticipation of this event, we had prepared staff throughout Atlantic Canada to be at the ready to help. Also we have folks on standby in case we have to send more personnel from Atlantic Canada,” said Harley.

As of mid-day Sunday, about 3,500 customers were still without electricity, The Canadian Press reported.

In St. John’s, the winds tore part of the roof of Mary Queen of Peace Elementary School and the roof lay in a heap of siding and nail-riddled boards some distance away, reported CP.

Image: The roof of Mary Queen of Peace elementary school was torn off after Hurricane Larry crossed over Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula in the early morning hours, in St. John’s, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly 

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