Ottawa-Gatineau tornadoes likely to become costliest in Canadian insurance history

Published: October 18, 2018

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September’s tornadoes that struck the Ottawa-Gatineau area might have been the costliest twister event in Canadian insurance industry. The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) reports the six tornadoes cost the industry $300 million in damages.

IBC cites data from Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ), which shows $200 million of the damages were in Ontario and $100 million was in Quebec. The EF3 twister that touched down in Ontario was the first EF3 storm to make ground during September or later since the 19th century.

Despite coming relatively late in the year, the storms are the most expensive insurance losses caused by tornadoes. Recent twisters have also been cat events, but not in the scale of the Ottawa-Gatineau storm.

For example, a June 2014 event in Angus, Ont., caused around $48 million, which an August 2011 tornado cost insurers about $110 million.

Severe Tornado Season

2018 has seen uncommonly severe tornado activity. As well as the once-in-a-century tornadoes in Ontario-Gatineau, an EF4 twister made ground on August 3. In Alonsa, Manitoba. An EF4 is categorized as a storm with wins of between 270 and 310 km/h.

“EF4 tornadoes are quite rare in Canada,” said Glenn McGillivray, managing director for the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR). “In the last climatology (1980-2009), only five EF4s were recorded, making up just 0.27% of the 1,843 tornadoes in the database.”

Pete Karageorgos, director of consumer and industry relations for IBC, has seen the damage from all the major tornadoes this year and ranks the Ontario-Gatineau event as the worst:

“Based on some of the damage I’ve seen, in the hardest hit areas of all three, I could say Angus comes in third spot, Goderich comes in second spot and [the Ottawa-Gatineau tornadoes]… will likely surpass Goderich in terms of the amount of damage,” he said last month.