Canadian Underwriter

Were the Ottawa-Gatineau tornadoes the costliest in Canadian history?

October 17, 2018   by Jason Contant

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The tornadoes that struck the Ottawa-Gatineau area on Sept. 21 cost the industry $300 million in insured damage, the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) said Wednesday.

Of that, $200 million was for insured damage on the Ontario side, and $100 million was for damage in Quebec, IBC said, citing data from Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc.

Six tornadoes touched down that day, including one in Dunrobin, Ont. with wind speeds of between 225 km/h and 265 km/h (rated EF3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale).

Damage from a tornado is seen in Dunrobin, Ont. west of Ottawa on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. The tornado that hit the area was on Friday, Sept, 21. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The recent tornadoes compare to a July 1987 event in Edmonton, which cost $148.4 million in insured damages at the time ($278.1 million in 2016 dollars), Glenn McGillivray, managing director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction told Canadian Underwriter recently. That tornado reportedly killed 27 people, and destroyed 300 homes and 200 mobile homes.

More recently, a June 2014 tornado in Angus, Ont. caused insured damage of about $48 million, the August 2011 event in Goderich, Ont. caused about $110 million and an August 2009 outbreak in southern Ontario caused insured damage of close to $100 million.

Pete Karageorgos, director of consumer and industry relations for IBC, was in Angus, Goderich, and more recently in Ottawa, to witness the damage from all three tornado events. Speaking personally, Karageorgos gave his sense of the tragedy he witnessed in Ottawa. “Based on some of the damage I’ve seen, in the hardest hit areas of all three, I could say Angus comes in third spot, Goderich comes in second spot and [the Ottawa-Gatineau tornadoes]… will likely surpass Goderich in terms of the amount of damage,” he said in late September.

Most recently, on Aug. 3, 2018, an EF4 tornado (winds of between 270-310 km/h) struck in Alonsa, Man. “EF4 tornadoes are quite rare in Canada,” McGillivray said. “In the last climatology (1980-2009), only five EF4s were recorded, making up just 0.27% of the 1,843 tornadoes in the database.”

Insured damage estimates from the Alonsa tornado are difficult to assess because a wind and hail storm passed through the region at the same time. Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company spokesperson David Hultin said Thursday the insurer received only two claims “for the Alonsa area related to the tornado specifically.” Wawanesa saw 170 claims in the Parkland region of Manitoba related to the storm.

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