April weather wallop hits eastern Canada hard

An April storm led to massive disruption in Ontario, which included the temporary closure of CN Tower.

When storms occur in the first full month of spring, they're usually in the form of rain events, perhaps accompanied by some windier-than-normal days or occasional snowfall. But the eastern portion of Canada got this and a lot more in mid-April, causing severe damage throughout the region that insurers are just now starting to appreciate.

Due to heavy wind, torrential downpours and accumulating snow, homeowners and business owners in Ontario and Quebec experienced damage costing approximately $85 million in insured losses, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada and Catastrophe Indices and Quantification. The first quarter of 2018 – and virtually all of 2017 – proved to be a trying period for Ontarians, as a seemingly unending series of storms resulted in $500 million worth of property damage.

Craig Stewart, vice president of federal affairs at the IBC, said Mother Nature is certainly trying Canadians' patience – and their expenses.

"Insured losses from storms such as these are increasing rapidly," Stewart explained. "However this is only part of the picture. Taxpayers are also bearing the brunt of these costs since many losses are uninsured. We are witnessing more frequent, intense storms which we now know are attributable to climate change."

Stewart added that the short- and long-term effects of climate change can no longer be denied, nor can people put off the importance of preparation and adapting to what appears to be the new normal.

Over 100,000 people lost power
In addition to property damage, residents throughout Ontario experienced widespread power outages. Indeed, at least 100,000 customers were still in the dark the day after the April 15 storm struck, according to The Canadian Press. Creating the perfect storm for electrical problems was a combination of ice pellets, freezing rain, wet snow and blustery wind gusts.

Homeowners, of course, weren't the only people inconvenienced by the multifaceted storm. The same was true for travelers – both by car and plane – with the Ontario Provincial Police responding to nearly 1,500 primarily weather-related motor vehicle crashes, none of which were fatal, The Canadian Press reported. All of these accidents occurred in and around Toronto over a 48-hour period. Meanwhile, people with places to go by air were grounded due to the inclement conditions, with over 600 flights canceled at Pearson International Airport alone.

Even Toronto's CN Tower had to close up shop due to shards of falling ice that presented safety concerns. Witnesses informed CTV News they watched as falling ice smashed several windows on office buildings adjacent to the CN Tower.

Social media users on Twitter and Facebook captured numerous images via their mobile devices, painting a picture of the trail of destruction. Sent to CTV News, the pictures included sidewalks littered with debris, lawn furniture strewn every which way and the back of a homeowner's car smashed by the upper portion of a fallen tree.

Ontario experiences streak of damage and destruction
The mid-April weather event is only the latest in a long line of storms that have led to massive amounts of headaches and claim submissions sent to insurers. As chronicled by the IBC, heavy wind and water-related destruction created an estimated $100 million in damage totals for the Hamilton and Niagara areas in March 2017. A month later, some of the same forces of nature adversely affected Ottawa and Burlington to the tune of $25 million in losses. More recently, in February, ice and snow led to $40 million spent to fix property in southern Ontario, which was preceded by a $10 million winter storm in January that hit Toronto and London. 

The IBC urged policyholders to review their insurance plans to determine what their policies include and to what amount.