Canadian Underwriter

U.S. winter storm that affected eastern Canada estimated to cost millions of U.S. dollars in economic losses: Impact Forecasting

March 9, 2016   by Canadian Underwriter

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Total economic losses from the late February winter storm in the United States that was felt in eastern Canada are estimated in the millions of dollars (U.S.), according to Impact Forecasting’s latest Global Catastrophe Recap.

Accumulating snow, freezing rain, ice and flooding led to damage in parts of Quebec, Ontario and Atlantic Canada and nearly 300,000 customers lost electricity as trees fell due to the heavy weight of snow and ice

The report, released on Tuesday, evaluated the impact of the natural disaster events that took place worldwide in February. Impacts from the U.S. winter storm were felt in eastern Canada from Feb. 23-25, Impact Forecasting, Aon Benfield’s catastrophe model development team, said in the report. Accumulating snow, freezing rain, ice and flooding led to damage in parts of Quebec, Ontario and Atlantic Canada. Nearly 300,000 customers lost electricity as trees fell due to the heavy weight of snow and ice.

The report also revealed that the strongest Southern Hemisphere tropical cyclone on record left a high financial toll for Fiji. Tropical cyclone Winston had maximum sustained winds of 295 kilometres per hour and made landfall on Fiji’s largest and most populated island (Viti Levu), killing at least 44 people and damaging or destroying more than 24,000 homes. Total economic losses were estimated at US$470 million – roughly 10% of Fiji’s GDP, Impact Forecasting said in a statement. Insurers noted claims were expected to reach US$47 million.

Meanwhile in the Northern Hemisphere, severe convective storms in the U.S. led to the greatest number of February tornadoes in the country since 2008, according to the report. Damage resulting from tornadoes, straight-line winds and large hail was noted in the Plains, Midwest, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Virginia endured the strongest February twister on record for the state. Combined economic losses in the U.S. – which also includes damage resulting from heavy snow and ice – are expected to top US$1 billion, the statement said, adding that the insurance industry was poised to see losses reach well into the hundreds of millions (U.S. dollars).

Related: Death toll from Fiji cyclone hits 18 as aid sent to islands

Windstorms Norkys and Ruzica – also known locally as Henry and Imogen – brought high winds and coastal flooding to portions of Ireland and the United Kingdom. Total combined economic losses from both storms were estimated at US$175 million.

Steve Bowen, associate director and meteorologist at Impact Forecasting, said in the statement that despite starting to show signs of weakening in the Central and Eastern Pacific Ocean, the “record-tying El Niño left its fingerprint on many global natural disaster events in February. From Tropical Cyclone Winston’s record intensity landfall in Fiji to flooding rains in California to the worst drought in decades across parts of Southeast Asia and Africa, it is clear that the El Niño phenomenon will continue to impact atmospheric and oceanic patterns in the months ahead.”

Other notable earthquake and drought events occurred globally in February, including:

• A magnitude-6.4 earthquake in Taiwan killed at least 117 people and injured 550 others. The Taiwan government allocated US$750 million for recovery and reconstruction, with the Financial Supervisory Commission citing preliminary insured losses at only US$8 million);

• A magnitude-5.8 earthquake struck just offshore New Zealand’s Christchurch metro region and left several people injured. The New Zealand Earthquake Commission noted 5,048 filed insurance claims;

• A magnitude-5.1 tremor in Oklahoma caused minor damage, “likely the third-strongest earthquake ever recorded in Oklahoma;

• Worsening droughts in Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Thailand and Haiti resulted in nearly US$9 billion in economic losses.

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