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Damage by severe weather costs top $1 billion in Canada

Jennifer Kwan

Nasty weather conditions in Canada has cost insurers more than $1 billion this year, with a summer storm in Alberta ranking as the most expensive.

In mid August, wind, flooding and hail storms battered Calgary and surrounding areas. Torrential downpours and wind gusts reaching more than 100 kilometres per hour reportedly left broken windows and fallen trees. The storm helped to push up the insured damages to $552 million, says the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

The impact of Superstorm Sandy was also of note. Parts of Ontario and Quebec were hit as the storm swept the U.S. Northeast.

The total damages incurred in 2012 are estimated at $1.19 billion, remaining at similar elevated levels over the past several years, the bureau says. In 2011, damages were at $1.7 billion and $915 million in 2010. In 2009, the damages were just under $1 billion.

"These types of weather events can have a devastating impact on communities, the safety of their residents and the protection of their property," said Heather Mack, IBC's director of government relations in Alberta.

The numbers reflect the estimates reported by Property Claim Services Canada, a service that tracks insured losses arising from catastrophic events in Canada.

Steve Kee, a spokesman at IBC in Toronto, said the key type of payouts are typically related to bigger-ticket property items.

"You're going to see a combination of home, business and auto insurance claims. These are what we call the catastrophic damages," he said.

Some highlights of costly weather events, according to IBC:

Summer storm in Calgary:  Insured damages $552 million. Big balls of hail -- some reportedly five to six centimeters in diameter -- pelted parts of the region around Calgary during a severe thunderstorm. The storm brought heavy rain and flooding.

Heavy rain in central Canada: Insured damages $260 million. A large storm left a path of destruction in parts of Ontario and Quebec, with areas in and around Thunder Bay and Montreal the hardest hit. The storm unleashed torrents of water that overwhelmed sewer systems and caused widespread flooding of streets, homes and buildings. There were reports of flooded basements, flooded businesses and cars submerged under water.

Superstorm Sandy: Insured damages $106 million. The storm, which had serious impacts across the U.S. Northeast and resulted in deaths, also lashed parts of Ontario and Quebec. Trees were toppled and power lines fell when winds reached a 100 kilometres per hour. The high winds damaged homes and businesses, ripped shingles off roofs and heavy rains resulted in localized flooding and sewer backup in some residential basements.