Canadian Underwriter

Ontario snowstorm isn’t a Cat event – yet

January 17, 2022   by Philip Porado

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Heavy snowfall in Ontario isn’t resulting in claim levels associated with a catastrophe event. But time may tell a different story.

“We are seeing some increase in auto claims which is typical for snowstorms,” Heather Matthews, chief client officer of Canada for Crawford & Co. told Canadian Underwriter. “Currently it is a slight uptick from what we would consider normal.”

The Canadian Press reported the storm caused widespread transportation disruptions across a large portion of southern Ontario. As much as 50 cm of snow was expected in some areas, and Environment Canada advised caution given the risk of reduced road visibility.

Tweets from Toronto Police Operations noted snowplows had become stuck on expressways, causing shutdowns of major highway segments.

“Currently we do not see this being a Cat event but…that may evolve depending on how long it goes for,” added Matthews.

Despite the possibility of the storm producing record-breaking snowfall, ClaimsPro told Canadian Underwriter it’s seeing normal claim activity in the greater Toronto area, including normal overflow volume to its call centre.

“At this point, we do not see any evidence that this will be a Cat,” said Paul Féron, senior vice president of ClaimsPro’s Ontario and Manitoba regions.

Environment Canada issued snowfall, winter storm or blizzard warnings for a stretch of the province spanning from the Cornwall area to the east, the Algonquin region to the west, and the Niagara and London regions to the south. Parts of neighbouring provinces also reported heavy snow.

How high claims volume goes will depend on what the weather does next, according to Crawford. Continued snow over the next several days can lead to snow-load claims, and a sudden, extreme temperature drop can mean burst pipes.

“And if the temperature does a sudden spike up,” she said, “we do see ice jams and some water claims.”

Féron echoed concerns about snow-loading.

“We are hearing there is potential for snow shifting to freezing rain,” he said. “And if that’s the case, the weight of heavy snow could possibly cause property structural damage to homes or buildings if left unattended.”

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