wf1_floodingIt might not shock anyone to learn 2013, the year of the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history, was also a record year in Canada for weather-related insured losses.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada on Monday reported its members saw a record total of $3.2 billion in severe weather-related insured losses in 2013 — after four years in a row in which natural disaster-related losses topped $1 billion.

Canada’s costliest natural disaster ever, of course, was the rainfall that flooded towns in southern Alberta last June, which alone caused insured damages worth over $1.74 billion.

“These unprecedented losses have been very difficult for Albertans. Many homes and businesses were destroyed. Rebuilding will go on for some time to come, and our industry will continue to be there to fulfill its important role,” IBC’s vice-president for the western and Pacific regions, Bill Adams, said in a release.

Several large hail storms also hit central Alberta in mid- to late July, putting Alberta farmers’ hail insurance claims in 2013 at about 25 per cent above average, even after “more normal” claim volumes in August, according to the Canadian Crop Hail Association.

Canada’s second most expensive weather event of 2013 came in July, when record rainfall caused flash floods in the Toronto area for $940 million in damages.

Those floods, IBC said, amounted to the most expensive insured natural disaster in Ontario’s history.

The Christmas-season ice storms that hit southern Ontario and Eastern Canada led to $200 million in claims, IBC said, mostly for homes damaged by trees that fell as a result of ice buildup.

Ontario-based insurers also paid out over $25 million in claims for vehicles damaged in the storm, IBC said.

Other natural disasters last year included July’s severe thunderstorm hitting central and southern Ontario and southwestern Quebec, causing about $200 million in damage. A band of “powerful” thunderstorms that hit Quebec and Ontario in June led to damages over $50 million.

Hail claims in 2013 in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, according to the CCHA, were below and on par with the five-year average respectively.

“Canadian communities are seeing more severe weather, especially more intense rainfall. This overburdens our sewer and stormwater infrastructure, resulting in more sewer backups in homes and businesses,” IBC CEO Don Forgeron said in the same release.

Property and casualty insurers, he added, “are collaborating with all three levels of government to help Canadians adapt to these new weather realities.”

For example, IBC noted it recently launched a predictive tool for municipalities “to help them pinpoint vulnerabilities in their sewer and stormwater infrastructure –- weaknesses that could lead to costly sewer backups and basement flooding.”

The “municipal risk assessment tool,” or MRAT, combines information about municipal infrastructure, current and future climate, and past insurance claims to give engineers a “new and revealing” picture of where their infrastructure is vulnerable now and will be vulnerable in 2020 and in 2050.

IBC launched MRAT in November as a pilot project with Coquitlam, B.C., Fredericton, N.B., and Hamilton, Ont.

Intact Financial Corp., Canada’s biggest property and casualty insurance provider, was quoted by Reuters in November as saying it expected to boost homeowner insurance premiums by 15 to 20 per cent in most provinces to handle higher claims. (Photo courtesy Alberta RCMP)

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