Canadian Underwriter

Hail peril scope saw changes in 2021

December 30, 2021   by Jason Contant

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A late-summer hailstorm that swept across prairie provinces spurred record claims in Saskatchewan, the province’s public auto insurer said.

The Aug. 31-Sept. 1 storm hit parts of Regina and other areas of the province with golf ball-sized hail, and strong winds and rain, said Tyler McMurchy, manager of media relations with Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI).

It resulted in more than 11,000 auto and property claims as of Sept. 24, including more than 9,500 auto and 1,800 property claims.

“According to our records, going back to 1999, this recent storm resulted in more claims than any other we have seen,” McMurchy said.

The Aug. 31 storm and another on July 22 caused a total of $120 million in insured damage, initial estimates from CatIQ show. The August storm brought flash flooding and large hailstones, resulting in $64 million in damages.

About five weeks earlier, very strong wind gusts, hail and rain caused $56 million in insured damage across the two provinces, the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) reported.

Weather summaries from Environment and Climate Change Canada show the widespread July storm resulted in downed trees, power lines and damage across both Saskatchewan and Alberta. Peak wind gusts reached 140 kilometres per hour in Regina, with tennis ball-sized hail (6.5 centimetres) reported near Okla and Foam Lake.

“This storm hit the Foam Lake area hardest, but we also saw claims from as far away as North Battleford,” McMurchy said.

In Alberta, peak wind gusts were 122 km/h in Gilt Edge and 115 km/h in Lloydminster, which straddles the border between Alberta and Saskatchewan. Ping pong-ball sized hail (3.5 cm) was reported along Highway 12, from west of Bentley to Lacombe, Alta.

“Canadians across the prairies had their homes, vehicles and businesses damaged by heavy storms,” said Aaron Sutherland, vice president of IBC’s Western and Pacific region. “As our climate changes, the frequency and severity of weather events is on the rise, and so too are the financial costs borne by insurers and taxpayers. Of the 10 most costly natural disasters in Canadian history, six of these have hit Alberta.”

In Canada, “hail alley” is traditionally considered to be the area between Calgary and Red Deer, Alta. While hailstorms used to be confined mostly to regions in south and central Alberta, storms are now doing damage across North America in plenty of regions that were once considered low-risk, RIMS said in a paper, Hail Risk: Assess Your Exposure as Storms Intensify and Evolve.

It noted a number of trends related to hailstorms, including:

* An increase in the number of properties in the path of damaging hailstorms as cities and suburbs expand;

* Smaller hailstones causing more damage. Smaller stones (less than about 5 cm) can be particularly damaging when combined with high winds. The stones may not damage roofing, but can fit inside equipment and break inner workings, such as the coils that power rooftop air conditioning units; and

* No set hail season. Hail can happen any time of the year as long as thunderstorms are strong enough. A severe storm may hit a region once, then not occur again for a few years.


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