Although it’s finally spring, it’s also extreme weather season in Alberta. We live in a great province, but over the last several years we have seen a major uptick in major weather incidences. Most experts attribute this to climate change, which is also causing problems around the world.
As we work to reduce our effect on the planet through judiciously reducing our carbon dioxide output, we will hopefully begin to see things calm down a bit weather-wise. In the meantime, protect yourself and your property by hoping for the best, while preparing for the worst.
May and June — Rain and Flooding
The massive flooding Albert experienced in 2013 was due to a combination of factors. First, we had a deep snow pack in the mountains because of lots of snow in the winter. Then, we had a long period of sustained rain (well, at least long for Alberta), with at least 250 millimeters falling over three days. The rain caused the snow to melt quickly, and the water gained speed and power as it came down from the mountains, pushing its way through Banff National Park, shoving through Calgary and finally culminating south of the city in High River and the surrounding areas.
It was the nation’s largest natural disaster ever at the time, resulting in $1.8 billion in insurance losses, five lives lost, 80,000 people displaced out of their homes, and months and months of disaster recovery.
This is unusual, yes, but actually not that unusual. Some may already forget the 2005 flood in Calgary, which, at the time, was Environment Canada’s top extreme weather event of the year. That particular flood caused $275 million in insurance losses, with 14 municipalities declaring a state of emergency.
Water damage is one of the most common home insurance claims in Alberta. Depending on where you live, you may want to consider adding flood insurance to your home policy. We highly recommend this if you live in a flood zone. This is the only way to protect yourself from damage incurred due to overland flooding, which is water entering your home from the outside (usually through cracks around windows and doors, plus seeping in through your foundation). If you live in a flood zone, a sump pump is also a smart idea, as it will allow you to remove water fast and greatly mitigate against damage.
Far more common is water entering through your sewer. This happens when city drainage pipes are overwhelmed by large amounts of water, which happens often after one of Calgary’s fast and torrential downpours. Backflow valves are your best protection against flooding caused by an overstressed sewer system. They are placed in your sewer lateral, and automatically close if the sewer backs up from underneath, keeping water out of your home or business. Do not install a backflow valve yourself, call a certified plumber to do so to ensure it is done properly.
Backflow valves should be checked every six months, and now is the perfect time to do it.
We can’t stress this enough — it is absolutely imperative in Calgary to carry sewer backup coverage, as again, this is one of the most common home insurance claims in the city. The experienced insurance brokers at Lane’s can help you ensure this is part of your plan.
June, July and August —Hail and Lightning
We in Alberta are well aware of the damage a hail storm can cause. Although they can be breathtaking, they are also extremely expensive to clean up after. The worst hail storm in Alberta thus far took place in Calgary on August 12, 2012. It was so fast, furious and ferocious it left a trail of destruction resulting in about $700 million in insured damages, mostly to vehicles that were unable to get to shelter. The storm dropped golfball-sized hail stones that pummelled everything in their path.
The year before another hail storm ended up accounting for $380 million in insured losses. 2013 was a reprieve, but a massive storm that hit near Airdrie in 2014 resulted in $530 million in insured damages. And yet another storm in 2017 in early August saw toonie-sized hail stones come down in waves, which left well-kept gardens in tatters.
If you hear reports of a hail storm on the horizon, make sure to do the following:
- Move your vehicle to shelter
- Bring pets inside
- Put light yard furniture away, or else tie it down
- Stay away from windows and skylights
- Do not use telephone land lines or electrical appliances
- Keep indoors and do not go outside for any reason
Keeping your roof in good repair is the best way to avoid hail damage to your home. Don’t expect that you’ll be able to easily make a claim after one of Calgary’s colossal hail storms if you have not done so. Most policies take into consideration the age and condition of your roof before considering reimbursement. In addition, as a general rule, if your roof is more than 10 years old, depreciation value will be factored in, meaning you will be unlikely to receive the full replacement amount.
Many don’t realize that lightning is also a major extreme weather peril in Alberta as well. According to the Canada Safety Council, lightning flashes occur about every three seconds in the summer, with Canadian Underwriter tallying the total number of hits at somewhere between 2 and 2.5 million a year. Each summer in Alberta there is an average of 400,000 strikes.
When lightning hits a building or home it can spark a structure fire, fry electric wiring and appliances and damage framing and foundations. Make sure to:
- Close all windows and external doors.
- Unplug or turn off all unnecessary electrical equipment.
- Since metal pipes transfer electricity, stay away from faucets, tubs and sinks.
Trust Lane’s Insurance for Affordable Coverage and Outstanding Customer Service
Lane’s Insurance is here to help Alberta home and business owners protect their property and stay safe during the sometimes-wild weather of the summer season. We represent you, not the insurance companies, and work with numerous carriers to meet your insurance needs while maintaining extremely competitive pricing. Contact our Calgary, Edmonton, Banff or Alberta offices.