Spring disaster streak continues in Ontario

Ice, wind and snow have pelted Ontario for much of the spring.

Sometimes April showers bring May flowers. But in an oft weather-wild region like Ontario, the first full month of spring can yield headaches and inconvenience caused by winter overstaying its welcome. Such was the case in the southern portion of the province, as newly released damage totals suggested.

According to Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc., the mid-April ice storm that blanketed the lower half of Ontario in a frozen mess resulted in insured losses exceeding $190 million, the Insurance Bureau of Canada reported.

The not-so-pleasant April surprise wasn't unidimensional, as in addition to ice, which led to power outages and spin-outs on the roads, heavy wind gusts and snowfall added insult to injury for residents and business owners. Indeed, CatIQ attributed at least 1,800 car accidents and more than 15,000 insurance claims to the ice storm, IBC reported from CatIQ calculations.

Kim Donaldson, vice president of the Ontario division of the IBC, noted claim submissions continue to come in, now several weeks removed from the storm's unwelcome arrival, adding to what's already been a busy year for weather woes.

"Insured losses from storms such as this one are increasing rapidly," Donaldson explained. "A generation ago, insurers paid out – on average – about $400 million a year in today's dollars across Canada on weather-related costs. Now that number often tops $1 billion a year, and sometimes it goes much higher."

Donaldson further referenced how just in Ontario, weather-related events have resulted in more than $600 million spent to fix insured property. In other words, extreme storms seem to be the new normal, happening with greater frequency and considerable impact.

Storm-infested spring so far
Indeed, southern Ontarians have seen more than their fair share of inclement conditions over the past year and a half or so. In early April, whipping winds led to widespread power outages and more recently, another windstorm uprooted trees throughout the province, some of which caused damage to homes, parked automobiles and other property, Global News reported. Quebec also felt the damaging aftereffects, although those impacted expressed gratitude the fallout wasn't worse.

Point-Claire resident Jin Frati was one such person.

"It wasn't the house, it wasn't us, it was just on the outside of it," Frati told Global News, referring to a tree that fell on his vehicle. "We're still alive. It's a wonderful life."

An electrical fire occurred the night the tree came down in front of Frati's home, but the flames left his residence untouched.

Environment Canada has had a busy go of it in the first half of spring, issuing a number of special weather alerts warning eastern Canadians to keep their eyes to the sky. The announcements affected regions like Okanagan Valley and Central Okanagan, urging homeowners to be mindful of the potential for flash flooding, Global News reported.

2017 a record year for catastrophes
If 2018 does turn out to be a year that sees an uptick in natural disasters, it wouldn't be too different from last year, which will go down as one of the worst on record in terms of wildfire activity. As noted by the Government of Canada, at least 50,000 people in British Columbia fled their homes due to wildfires, which destroyed at least 300 structures and caused power outages due to the flames affecting utility poles. On July 7, British Columbia declared a state of emergency, which wasn't lifted until more than two months later.

Citing data from the BC Wildfire Service, the Canadian government said approximately 1,265 fires took place in the province last year, consuming 1.2 million hectares of land area. That's two times the size of Prince Edward Island. Insured losses were $130 million, and the fight to stanch the flames cost taxpayers $500 million.