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Ontario's brutal winter costs homeowners $118 million

Thursday, April 11th 2019, 6:58 pm - Together, the aftermath of three severe weather events set homeowners back $118 million in insured losses.

Ontario’s winter struggled to make up its mind this year, and the resulting rollercoaster temperatures combined with heavy winter precipitation caused at least $118 million in insured damages, according to a report by the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).

That hefty price tag is linked to just three severe weather events, both related to the very stark temperature contrast this past winter.

The first storm on February 4 resulted in temperatures soaring as high as 15°C in some communities and triggered major snowmelt. That evening a low pressure system manifested as 20-40 cm of snow in the north, freezing rain from Sault Ste. Marie to Ottawa, and rain across much of the rest of southern Ontario.

The result was flooding causing water damage, sewer backups, and burst pipes, including two sinkholes in Toronto and localized flooding in Ottawa and Cornwall due to clogged catch basins. The whole event resulted in $33 million in insured damages.

Just a few weeks later a winter storm followed and caused damages that totaled $48 million due to powerful wind gusts exceeding 100 km/h, blizzard conditions, and snow squalls with near zero visibility.

READ MORE: April 2018 storm caused $85 million in insured damages.

One month later, another major weather event struck. March 9 saw strong winds in the 80-100 km/h range, along with high temperatures, rain, and freezing rain, depending on location. The result was more flooding and water damage impacting basements and roofs due to heavy rain. That event was even more costly, with insured damages of $37 million.

Then on March 14 a late-season, powerful low pressure system tracked across the country bringing a miserable mix of freezing rain, snow and whipping winds. The storm traveled across multiple provinces and the total insured damage from this weather event cost $124 million for Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.

IBC says the increasing trend of property damage from extreme weather is related to climate change fueling severe storms that are happening more often and more intensely.

"While the insured damage from these storms is significant, the total economic cost to homeowners and governments is even greater," Kim Donaldson, IBC's vice-president, said in a release. "It is important that property owners take precautions and protect their properties to minimize potential damage. They should also understand their insurance policies and know whether they have overland flood coverage."

The costs aren't only limited to people whose properties were damaged. The IBC governments have to spend three times more to repair public infrastructure after severe weather than insurers have to pay out in claims.

IBC occasionally puts out information on insurance damage from significant storms in Canada, based on data from Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ).

Costly storms in eastern regions of the nation also resulted in staggering costs, and the national totaled insured damage has reached $281 million for just the first few months of the year.

Dates Weather Event Insured Damage
Jan 23 - 25 Eastern Canada winter storm $39 million
February 4 Ontario Thaw $33 million
February 24 - 25 Ontario Storm $48 million
March 9 Ontario Thaw $37 million
March 14 -16 ON, QC, NB, NS $124 million
Total insured damage thus far 2019 Sum of all events listed above $281 million

IBC advises that Canadians can best prepare for damaging weather by calling their insurance represntative to figure out if their policies meet their, such as inquiring about flooding insurance and sewer backup coverage.

With files from Vanessa Barrasa.

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