Top 5 Most Expensive Natural Disasters in Canada

14 February 2017
by Seafirst Insurance

When you take a look at the most expensive natural disasters in Canada, two things become strikingly clear. First, the most common natural disasters in Canada are typically floods and fires, inflicting the most costly damage to properties, while hailstorms and regular storms come in a close second. Second, Alberta sees the harshest weather conditions around!

What Is Considered a Natural Disaster?

A natural disaster is defined as “any event or force of nature that has catastrophic consequences, such as avalanche, earthquake, flood, forest fire, hurricane, lightning, tornado, tsunami, and volcanic eruption.”

A natural disaster is caused by nature or the natural processes of the earth, the severity of which is measured in lives lost, economic loss, and the ability of the population to rebuild.

Are Natural Disasters Covered by Homeowners Insurance?

The short answer is that yes, most home insurance policies automatically cover damage caused by unpredictable and extreme weather events. However, as you’ll see below, it isn’t always cut and dry.

To illustrate what types of things are covered after a natural disaster, let’s look at a list of the five most expensive natural disasters to have taken place across Canada in recent history.

These rankings are based on figures reported by the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC)

List of Natural Disasters in Canada:

1. Fort McMurray Wildfire of May 2016

Notable damage: It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Fort McMurray Wildfire tops this list. At the height of the Fort McMurray Wildfire close to 90,000 residents were displaced for months and about 2,400 homes and other buildings were destroyed or heavily damaged.

Insured damage cost: $3.58 billion

Tips:

  • Almost all home insurance policies cover property damage caused by fire, even if the fire began on a neighbouring property, as long as the fire was not started intentionally.
  • The IBC states that wildfires pose the largest threat to homeowners who live near grasslands or heavily forested areas.​ If this is you, make sure you do your homework on how to reduce your risk as much as possible.
  • As per some insurance policies, homeowners who are unable to return home as a result of insurable damage may be entitled to living expenses.
  • Speak to your insurance broker to understand your options and coverage limits when it comes to fire damage, especially if you live in a neighbourhood or climate prone to forest fires.

2. Southern Alberta Floods of June 2013

Notable damage: Caused by heavy rainfall, flooding across Southern Alberta in 2013 led to nearly 120,000 people having to flee their homes. The provincial government has deemed the 2013 Alberta floods as the worst in Alberta's history.

Insured damage cost: $1.72 billion

Tips:

  • Despite water damage being one of the most prolific causes of insurance claims out there, not all water damage is covered by a standard homeowner insurance policy. For example, almost all home insurance policies cover property damage caused by water damage from burst pipes, but not all policies cover damage caused by backed up sewage systems.
  • Since insurance policies only protect against the unexpected, many insurance policies won’t cover flood damage if you live near a floodplain It has only been in recent years that insurance companies have started to cover loss or damage caused by overland flood damage, occurring when bodies of water like rivers or dams overflow during a disaster or otherwise.
  • As per some insurance policies, homeowners who are unable to return home as a result of insurable damage may be entitled to living expenses.
  • Speak to your insurance broker to understand your options and coverage limits when it comes to water damage, especially if you live in a neighbourhood or climate prone to flooding.

3. Great Ice Storm of 1998

Notable damage: Also known as the North American Ice Storm of 1998 , in Canada this event heavily effected residents in Quebec, Ontario, and New Brunswick. During three big storms over the course of six days in January, nearly one million people went without power.

Insured damage cost: $1.49 billion

Tips:

  • ICBC states that damage to homes caused by hail or wind is usually covered under most home insurance policies. This includes damage caused by flying debris or falling tree branches, or damage to your home and contents from water entering through openings caused by wind or hail.
  • When it comes to mobile homes, trailers, and vehicles on the property, damage from hail might not be covered.
  • Aside from property damage, ice is a common cause of liability claims, especially against business owners.
  • Insurance policies usually cover the loss of food that was lost during a power outage, up to $1,000 in many cases.
  • Speak to your insurance broker to understand your options and coverage limits when it comes to ice and wind damage, especially if you live in a neighbourhood or climate prone to hailstorms.

4. Toronto Flood of July 2013

Notable damage: Listed as Ontario’s most costly disaster to date, the Toronto Flood of 2013 flooded highways and streets in the Greater Toronto Area, causing 126 mm of precipitation that damaged properties, stranded commuters, and forced many to abandon vehicles in flooded streets.

Insured damage cost: $943 million

5: Slave Lake Fire of May 2011

Notable damage: The 2011 Slave Lake wildfire in Alberta destroyed one-third of the town and forced the complete evacuation of Slave Lake's 7,000 residents. In total, 374 properties were destroyed, including the town hall, radio station, and library.

Insured damage cost: $700 million

Runner Ups: 5 More Costly Canadian Natural Disasters

6: Southern Ontario Tornado Outbreak of 2005

  – $590 million in insured damage.

7: Calgary-area Storm of August 2012

 – $530 million in insured damage.

8: Calgary Storm of July 2010

– $500 million in insured damage.

9: Alberta Hailstorm of August 2014

– $450 million in insured damage.

10: Calgary Hailstorm of September 1991

– $343 million in insured damage.

Fun Fact: Hail Alley

If anything, this list shows how Calgary has earned its title as the hailstorm capital of Canada. However, an area larger than just Calgary is effected every year by severe hailstorms. Deemed Hailstorm Alley, there is an area of south and central Alberta, Canada where hailstorms happen frequently between June and September. Hailstorm Alley stretches from High River in southern Alberta, northward through Calgary, through Red Deer to Lacombe and then westward to Rocky Mountain House.

Are You Covered in the Case of the Next Natural Disaster?

It is important to note that the dollar figures listed here are only the amounts that the insurance companies have covered/are covering. They don’t account for the property loss of the thousands of people who lacked the right kind of commercial, residential, or farm insurance, nor does it account for all the priceless possessions that were lost.

While these are extreme examples of the types of losses that occur during a natural disaster, they serve as a reminder of how much of a lifesaver having the right level of homeowner insurance can be. For example, your home is likely insured, as deemed mandatory to be approved for a mortgage, but do you know if all of your outbuildings are insured? How about those parked cars you’ve been meaning to get tuned up, or that RV that’s not on the road until summer?

Fortunately, sorting out the details of your insurance coverage is not complicated when you are working with an experience insurance broker.

SeaFirst’s comprehensive homeowner’s policy combines coverage for your home, personal belongings, and any third-party liability for your actions. The coverage is completely customizable to also provide coverage for special items of value such as jewellery, coin collections, silverware, and so much more!

If you’ve got questions relating to your home insurance and you live in the Victoria, British Columbia region, come see us at SeaFirst Insurance Brokers.

At SeaFirst, you’ll never feel rushed and we’ll do our best to make sure all your questions are answered so you end up with the best coverage to suit your residential insurance needs. Even though BC never made a spot on this list, that doesn’t mean the Big One isn’t coming. Earthquake or otherwise. 

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