Preliminary estimates suggest that total economic losses from weather events in December – including significant storms in the United States and United Kingdom – will exceed US$4 billion, with insured losses “likely to approach or exceed US$2 billion,” Aon Benfield said on Wednesday.
A significant chunk of the month’s losses occurred in Texas, with the “Insurance Council of Texas [reporting] losses of US$1.2 billion in the Dallas metropolitan area alone,” Impact Forecasting said in a statement. The report noted that “a complex weather pattern across the United States during the final 10 days of 2015 led to extensive damage as a result of violent tornadoes, historic flooding, record snowfall, hail and damaging winds.” At least 64 people were killed and parts of U.S. Midwest, Plains, Southeast, Rockies and Northeast were all impacted by the inclement weather, though the states of Missouri, Texas, Illinois, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky and Indiana were among the hardest hit.
The report added that the severe weather pattern resulted in at least 58 tornado touch-downs, historic flooding in the Mississippi Valley and Midwest, and record snowfall and ice that led to extensive travel disruption, as well as hail and damaging winds.
In the U.K., rainfall from a series of North Atlantic storm systems led to extensive flooding across the nation and Ireland throughout the month. The arrival of windstorms Ted and Eckard – also known locally as Desmond and Frank – brought even more flood and wind damage. The hardest hit areas included a large swath of southern Scotland, northern England and Wales, where thousands of homes endured varying levels of flood inundation, the statement said.
Various published reports, including from the Association of British Insurers, indicated that preliminary insured losses in the U.K. were expected to exceed US$2.2 billion, while overall economic losses were forecast to be around US$4 billion.
In Canada, a major storm system that originated in the U.S. tracked northward and brought “wintry impacts” across eastern Canada from Dec. 27 to 30. The weather left considerable impacts across parts of Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada. Heavy snow, sleet, freezing rain and gusty winds caused treacherous driving conditions, the report said, with more than 300 automobile crashes in Ontario, including at least 130 alone in Toronto. Total economic losses were estimated in the “millions” in U.S. dollars.
Other natural hazard events that occurred during December include:
• Areas of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil endured their worst flooding in at least 50 years, killing at least 16 people and resulting in preliminary economic loss estimates in excess of US$200 million;
• Typhoon Melor made multiple landfalls in the Philippines, killing at least 42 people and injuring 24 others. Reported economic damages to agriculture and infrastructure alone were US$140 million;
• A wildfire in the Australian state of Victoria destroyed at least 116 homes. The Insurance Council of Australia declared an insurance catastrophe, with preliminary insured losses listed at US$38 million, and total economic losses expected to exceed US$100 million; and
• The Ethiopian National Risk Management Coordination Commission announced that it sought US$1.4 billion to deal with its worst drought in 30 years. At least 10 million people were affected.
Impact Forecasting will also launch its Annual Global Climate and Catastrophe report, on Jan. 13, which will offer a comprehensive analysis of the natural disaster events of 2015, and whose preliminary data reveal that despite a higher than normal number of disasters, overall losses were below normal on both an economic and insured loss basis. The U.S. accounted for 60% of all global insured losses in 2015, Impact Forecasting reported.