Post-winter gives Canadians plenty to think about

Published: November 29, 2018

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Many Canadians now face a year-long risk from weather. As wildfire and flooding seasons end, the country is about to be gripped by winter. As the cold season arrives, blizzards, freezing climates, and heavy snowfall will lead to dangerous roads and property damage.

“There have been winter losses and there have been losses from winter storms,” said Balz Grollimund, head of the treaty underwriting team for Canada at Swiss Re, though he admits losses tend to be lessened during winter.

“We haven’t had huge losses in the last decade or so. We had the Quebec ice storm [in 2018], which was very sizeable and created a lot of disruption at the time, but in recent years we haven’t had any really big winter storms.”

However, an ice storm that happened across Quebec and Southern Ontario early in 2018 is included in a list of the top 10 natural catastrophe events in Canada over recent years. Homeowners can also feel more secure as their property is protected against winter-related damage, unlike many cases of flooding.

“If you purchase regular homeowners’ insurance for personal lines, the winter perils – wind storms and ice storms – all should be covered,” said Grollimund.

Despite the winter season has its own danger, the post winter weeks and months provide insureds with the most concern.

“When you have wet winters, so a lot of snowfall or a lot of rains into spring, this creates a flooding hazard depending on how quickly snow covers melt,” explained Grollimund. “This will also create more than average vegetation growth, so if you then have that followed by a very dry summer, going into later in the season you have a much more fuelled burn. So, heavy precipitation early in the year, depending on how temperatures and drought evolve over the summer, can create extra wildfire hazards going into the second part of the year.”

“We are having more insured exposure in areas with more wildfire hazard, where we build more houses and more valuable homes close to or in forests,” said Grollimund, explaining that, overall, “we definitely see more frequency in terms of disasters – that’s looking at storms, that’s looking at rainfall that’s more intense, and it’s also in terms of drought periods that become more intense and more frequent.

“The other thing with climate change is that the higher temperatures tend to go into higher latitudes, so areas that previously wouldn’t see such long and prolonged extreme droughts, like the Boreal forest, are now much more exposed to wildfire hazard as well.”