We joke about Canadians' obsession with talking about the weather, but the fact is there has been plenty of unusual weather to discuss in recent years.
A news release Tuesday from the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) reports that the estimated insured damage caused by severe weather across Canada has topped $1 billion for the third time in four years. That takes the weather discussion to another level when it starts hitting us in the wallet.
A Lethbridge Herald story in Tuesday's edition looked at the record number of hail damage claims in 2012, pointing out the Alberta Financial Services Corporation received more than 11,000 hail claims between June and September this year. That's well above the 6,500 recorded in a normal year, and it resulted in $460 million in payouts.
"We've been in the business since 1938, and it's the worst year we've ever had," said Chris Dyck, the AFSC's senior manager of business risk management operations.
The IBC news release notes the largest of the severe weather incidents in Canada this year was the wind, flooding and hail storms which battered Calgary and surrounding areas in August, causing $500 million in damages. Superstorm Sandy, which devastated the U.S. Northeast in October, also ravaged Ontario and Quebec to the tune of more than $100 million in damages. That was on top of the $260 million in damages caused by high winds and flooding in Ontario and and Quebec in May.
The recent trend of extreme weather has prompted the IBC to promote the need for Canada, and Canadians, to adapt to severe weather. The organization emphasizes three priority areas:
- The need to maintain and update infrastructure i.e. sanitary and storm water systems.
- Educating consumers on how to protect themselves and their properties.
- Working with provincial and municipal governments to help develop, promote and implement adaptation measures.
Earlier this year, the IBC commissioned a research paper titled "Telling the Weather Story," from lead author Gordon McBean. The study, prepared by the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, examined the impact weather could have in Canada in the future. The paper points out that as a result of these extreme weather incidents in recent years, water losses have now surpassed fire as the number one cause of home insurance claims in many parts of the country.
The IBC's focus on encouraging efforts to adapt to changing weather patterns makes sense, since we all have a vested interest protecting ourselves, and our communities, from the effects of severe weather.
"Insurers are seeing the financial impacts of severe weather first-hand," Gregor Robinson, IBC senior vice-president of policy and chief economist, said in the news release. "Canadians are already witnessing the impact of severe weather in terms of lost lives and injuries, families displaced from their homes, and towns that are devastated."
It's true we can't entirely shield ourselves from the effects of severe weather, but if we take steps to protect ourselves where we can, we can at least minimize the damages. However, there's only so much we can do as individuals. It will require the efforts of all levels of government to build the level of protection needed to handle the impact that extreme weather events can dish out.
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