July storm event in Sask. caused estimated $62M in insurable losses

July storm event in Sask. caused estimated $62M in insurable losses

The severe storms that hit the Prairies from July 13 to 15 this year caused $62 million in insured damage in Saskatchewan alone, according to estimates provided by Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) and the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).

SGI said the value of the combined property and auto storm claims it will process for the event is currently estimated at $33 million.

That represents about 73 per cent of the estimated $45.5 million in total summer storm claims from Saskatchewan that SGI expects to pay out for this year.

SGI's Tyler McMurchy said of the 2,873 claims filed so far for storm damage during those days, 2,282 were submitted to the Auto Fund.

"So that tells me that it was largely hail, because hail does affect autos significantly compared to stuff like wind or rainfall," he said.

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However, in terms of the total number of claims filed for damages during Saskatchewan's summer storm season this year, McMurchy said there have been worse years in recent memory.

"When you're looking at the previous years, especially 2016 and 2017, where you were looking at 15,000 to 17,000 claims, I can't see 2019 getting up in that area," he said.

As of Friday, there had been 7,889 claims filed to SGI for summer storm damage in 2019. Even if there were 2,000 more claims filed, it would still represent a five-year low.

Meanwhile, IBC said the value of claims for the July 13-15 storms in Saskatchewan that will be processed by private insurers is currently estimated at $29 million.

It said nearly two-thirds of the damage was to personal property, with the remaining losses impacting commercial property and automobiles.

According to IBC, severe weather in the Prairies over those three days caused significant hail, wind and water damage, with 102 km/h wind gusts and 68 mm of rain.

It said damage to homes and vehicles included siding torn off of homes, shingles torn off of roofs and shattered windows and windshields.

Western Canada was impacted by several storms this past summer, but IBC said this event was one of two that "stand out" in terms of the "catastrophic losses" suffered.

IBC said another storm cell on the afternoon of July 30 caused an estimated $1 million in insured losses in southern Saskatchewan, but $90 million in southern Alberta.

According to the agency's data, there have been more expensive weather events in Saskatchewan in recent history, including a June 2, 2017, hailstorm in Saskatoon that resulted in over $46 million in insurable losses and the July 22, 2016, hailstorm in Moose Jaw that caused over $462 million in insurable losses.

SGI's data ranked the July 13-15 storms as the third-most expensive weather event over the last six years, behind only the 2016 and 2017 hailstorms in Moose Jaw and Saskatoon.

Rob De Pruis, IBC's western director of consumer and industry relations, said an event that causes at least $25 million of insured damage is considered "catastrophic" by the insurance industry.

According to IBC data, Saskatchewan experienced two weather-related events that fit that criteria from 2000 to 2009. Over the last decade, there have been 30 catastrophic events in the province.

De Pruis said insured damage from severe weather across Canada in 2018 exceeded $2 billion. According to IBC's records of private insurance claims, it was the fourth-highest amount of annual losses on record — even when adjusted for inflation.

De Pruis said we are seeing a trend of increased frequency and severity of severe weather across the country.

"It used to cost the insurance industry, on average, about $500 million a year in insurable damages," he said. "What we're seeing over this past decade is about $1 billion, on average, in damages on an annual basis."

In 2019, IBC said there has already been close to $900 million in insured losses recorded.

The agency is advocating for improved building codes, better land-use planning, incentives to shift the development of homes and businesses away from areas at highest risk of flooding and investment in new infrastructure to protect communities from floods and fires.

"Some of that is making sure that as we're developing some of these communities [we're] making sure that we're not putting people in harm's way," De Pruis said.

IBC said for every dollar paid out in insurance claims for damaged homes, vehicles and businesses, Canadian governments and their taxpayers pay much more to recover the public infrastructure damaged by severe weather.