Canadian Underwriter

$2 billion is the new $1 billion for insured Canadian NatCat events

January 5, 2021   by Jason Contant

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Insured losses from natural catastrophes in Canada totalled nearly $2.5 billion last year, Toronto-based Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ) reported Monday.

“The years where annual catastrophic insured losses were below $1 billion seem to be a thing of the past; 2020 went one further and surpassed $2 billion in the first half of the year,” CatIQ said in a press release.

“The Fort McMurray ice jam resulted in a 1-in-100-year flood event and caused a staggering $562 million of insured loss in the spring, and the June 13th Calgary hailstorm, which pelted areas of the northeast with tennis ball-sized hail, became the costliest hailstorm on record for Canada at $1.3 billion.”

Other catastrophes added to the total last year, including two Alberta storms. One hit the Calgary, Drumheller, Airdrie and Strathmore areas on July 24, causing more than 10,000 claims and exceeding $135 million in insured damage. The other, which occurred on Aug. 2-3 in central Alberta, cost $58 million in insured damages. In Ontario, a Nov. 15, 2020 windstorm cost insurers another $87 million.

“Though 2020 was a year of exceptions in many ways, it falls right in line with the past decade when it comes to Canada’s increasing trend of annual catastrophic loss,” CatIQ said.

Alberta Health Services has lifted the final boil water advisory in Fort McMurray after major flooding earlier this spring. Birch Road in downtown Fort McMurray is shown on Tuesday, April 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Halinda

Caroline Floyd, assistant director of catastrophic loss with CatIQ, told Canadian Underwriter Tuesday that “2020 was a big year for hail and water in Canada, both in terms of the size and number of events. Flooding events in Quebec, Ontario, and B.C. marked the first part of the year, culminating with Fort McMurray’s major ice jam flood in late April – one of the year’s two largest Cats.”

Hail was the other big player for the year, with three hail-related Cats in Alberta and Saskatchewan over the summer and one late-season event hitting Quebec in October, Floyd said. “The year’s final Cat was a shoulder-season windstorm in southern Ontario in mid-November.”

Between 2009 and 2019, national severe weather losses across the country averaged about $1.9 billion annually. In the decades before that, between 1983 and 2008, the average yearly total for severe weather events was $422 million.

“Looking back, 2020 will go into the history books as both one-of-a-kind and the same old, same old,” CatIQ said in the press release. “While a global pandemic paused many aspects of our lives, catastrophes gave us no reprieve. Natural catastrophe records were broken globally, including some right in our backyard.”

Related: How much these four Alberta cats cost insurers in 2020

Floyd added that over the past few years, there’s been a trend toward more shoulder-season events (mainly springtime flooding in eastern Canada and windstorms in the spring and fall), whereas 2020 marked a return to the more typical ‘Cat season’ – summer severe thunderstorms bringing hail to the western Prairies. “Combined with the Fort McMurray flooding, that puts Alberta back at the top of the podium as Canada’s ‘Cat king’,” Floyd said.

2021 is already off to a stormy start, although it’s too early to say whether these storms will meet the threshold of a catastrophe. On Jan. 3, 2021, more than 17,000 Nova Scotia customers went without power after a major snowstorm dumped more than a foot of snow in Sydney and large amounts of snow in other parts of the province. Two other Atlantic provinces, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, saw snowfalls ranging from 20-30 cm.

On the other side of the country, in British Columbia, wind gusts already topping 100 km/h lashed Haida Gwaii, the Canadian Press reported Tuesday. Environment Canada’s weather office said gusts of up to 120 km/h were also possible in northern regions of the province.

CatIQ will hold its CatIQ Connect Catastrophes: 2020 Review, 2021 Preview webinar on Feb. 11. One of the session topics will be a 2020 ‘Catastrophes in Review’.


Feature image: Firefighters work to clear a blocked street drain as residents begin cleaning up in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, June 14, 2020, after a major hail storm damaged homes and flooded streets on Saturday.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

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