Spring Flooding Caused Record $208 Million in Damage in Eastern Canada

By InsuranceHotline.com Team
Spring Flooding Caused Record $208 Million in Damage in Eastern Canada.jpg

Spring flooding has taken its toll on parts of Canada. Affecting Quebec, New Brunswick and Ontario, overflowing rivers in late April and into May caused a whopping $208 million in damages. That’s according to the Catastrophe Indices and Quantification or CatIQ. Heavy rains contributed to river runoff which led to road flooding and floods in basements. Additionally, flooding led to submerged vehicles and homes that shifted in their foundations. Other damage included sewers that backed up and leaks in rooftops. It’s estimated there was $6 million in damage in New Brunswick. Ontario had $74 million in damage. While Quebec suffered the most with $127 million in damages.

“The widespread flooding this spring affected thousands of Canadians in eastern Canada,” stated Craig Stewart, Vice President of Federal Affairs. Before the heavy flooding and rain started, water levels in rivers were already high. This was due to melting snow and earlier rains that were heavy in these areas. Hence, flood warnings were in place for parts of New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec.

Insurance Claim Damage for Homes, Vehicles and Businesses

Homeowners filed nearly $160 million in claims while businesses saw nearly $40 million dollars in damage. Vehicle damage contributed more than $10 million in insured damage. Flooding by province also showed record totals. While 2,000 homes were flooded in Ontario, about 6,800 homes flooded in New Brunswick and another 9,800 in Quebec.

“Severe weather events driven by climate change have been happening more frequently and with greater intensity, especially storms involving floods and severe wind. While the insured damage from these storms is significant, the total economic cost to homeowners and governments is even greater. It is important that consumers take precautions and secure their property to minimize potential damage.”

“They should also understand their insurance policies and know whether they have overland flood coverage. It’s key to know what’s covered before storms like these, or other catastrophes, strike,” stated Kim Donaldson, IBC Vice-President in Ontario.

A National Flood Action Plan

A growing concern for some after record rainfall totals and subsequent insured damage this spring is how can Canadians prepare for such heavy rainfall? And importantly, should a plan be employed to help if severe flooding risks continue? As the financial costs rise due to climate change, the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is proposing a National Flood Action Plan.

The hopes are that the plan can look for ways to educate the public about flooding risk. Relocating those in areas prone to severe flooding is another concern. While developing insurance vehicles for high-risk coverage can help for high-risk areas, not offering disaster assistance for new developments in floodplains is another consideration.

“In Atlantic Canada, particularly in New Brunswick along the St. John River, it is clear that significant flooding is no longer a question of ‘if’ or ‘when’ but it’s a question of how many communities will be affected. With communities in New Brunswick experiencing back-to-back historic floods this year and last, it’s clear that insurers, governments and homeowners need to work together to adapt to the new reality of extreme weather events continuing to increase.” That’s according to Amanda Dean, Vice-President, Atlantic, IBC.

Disaster Preparedness for Homeowners and Businesses

As the government looks for ways to mitigate risks, there’s a lot Canadians can do as well. To reduce the risk to homes, businesses, property and vehicles, a checklist can help prepare the home or business. And, it can greatly reduce the damage a flood does in that particular area.

The checklist should include:

For Homes

  • Know the flood risk in the area: Check with local emergency management or floodplain management for that province or territory. Ask about the flood map or look up historical data. This can help people who are considering moving to an area that’s in a flood zone.
  • Move valuables to higher floors: In a flood zone, keep the expensive equipment on higher floors. Irreplaceable items like photo albums should be scanned and saved or stored in water-proof bags.
  • Elevate appliances: Some washers and dryers can stand on lumber or masonry above a projected flood elevation level. This ensures the motors don’t get wet. Or, move them to a higher floor.
  • Turn off electricity in areas that might get affected by a flood: The risk of electric shock is high in flooded basements due to electric motors. These might be in washers, dryers, furnaces or freezers. Turn off the electrical circuit breakers and unscrew fuses. But don’t stand in water when doing this. If floodwaters get close to an electrical entrance box, ask the utility company to turn the electricity off.
  • Keep evacuation supplies ready: A power outage isn’t the time to look for supplies. Have a kit with bottled water and nonperishable food like peanut butter and granola bars. Also include a flashlight, blanket in a water-proof bag, battery-operated radio and extra batteries. Add any prescription medicine, cash and credit cards and important phone numbers. Include special items for babies and seniors.
  • Plan for pets: Most pets can’t stay in shelters due to the hygiene risk. Don’t leave them behind as stressed animals can damage furniture. Plan ahead to take them to a dog shelter on higher ground.
  • With home insurance: Check your home insurance policy. Home and tenant insurance policies don’t always cover flood damage. Homeowners need to make sure they have adequate coverage for all types of flooding.
  • Check the sump pumps: Sump pumps should be cleaned and tested. Consider a portable version as a spare backup.
  • Minimize sewer backups: A sewer can back up if stormwater comes into the sanitation sewer and water begins to overflow. The overload will then back up into home lines and enter into basements through sewer water. Check with a local plumber. Homeowners might benefit from plugging or capping the sewer openings located in their basements (toilets, sinks, drains, showers). There are all kinds of wooden or expandable plugs or screwed caps that can fit.
  • Watch for floor drains: Some floor drains include a float plug. This can rise and plug up the drain.
  • Plug up a basement floor drain with a removable grid: These can be found in hardware stores. Remove the existing grid and buy a plug with a rubber center. It will expand to fill the pipe when the metal plates on the top and bottom are squeezed.
  • Cover a basement floor drain with a permanent grid: Using a partially inflated inner tube in the area around the drain.
  • Clear the gutter: Make sure there's no debris blocking the gutter or drains. Ensure downspouts direct water away from the property.
  • Anchor fuel tanks securely: Fuel tanks can float in a flood or tip over. If they spill, it increases the risk of fire. Securely anchor the fuel tank to the floor and keep fill line openings and vents above any projected flood level. Propane tanks might require permission from a propane company so contact them first.
  • Have an emergency plan: Discuss where to find and turn off electric fuse boxes, natural gas mains and water service mains.

For Businesses

  • With files and important documents: Move files and other documents to a higher floor or shelving. Or, scan and save them in secure cloud storage.
  • With computer equipment and supplies: Keep expensive equipment on higher floors if the office is in a flood zone area. Add any new equipment or supplies onto the insurance policy.
  • With employees: Have a disaster preparedness plan in place. Include forwarding phones and working remotely to ensure continuity of business.
  • With business insurance: Check your business insurance policy as these are often specialized.
  • Gas up the car early: If an evacuation is ordered and a power outage takes place, a gas station might be inoperable.
  • Plan the evacuation route: Find out in the province or territory where to go for higher elevations and shelters. For those in flood zones, have several routes available to get to higher ground.
  • With auto insurance: Check the auto insurance policy. Vehicles are usually protected in the event of a flood if the driver has comprehensive coverage. Regardless, drivers should take caution when driving during severe rains. Avoid driving through standing water. Even a small amount of water can stall a vehicle. Keep the evacuation supplies listed above in an emergency bag in the vehicle. These can help if a driver is ever stranded.

For Drains and Pumps

  • Check the sump pumps: Sump pumps should be cleaned and tested. Consider a portable version as a spare backup.
  • Minimize sewer backups: A sewer can back up if stormwater comes into the sanitation sewer and water begins to overflow. The overload will then back up into home lines and enter into basements through sewer water. Check with a local plumber. Homeowners might benefit from plugging or capping the sewer openings located in their basements (toilets, sinks, drains, showers). There are all kinds of wooden or expandable plugs or screwed caps that can fit.
  • Watch for floor drains: Some floor drains include a float plug. This can rise and plug up the drain.
  • Plug up a basement floor drain with a removable grid: These can be found in hardware stores. Remove the existing grid and buy a plug with a rubber center. It will expand to fill the pipe when the metal plates on the top and bottom are squeezed.
  • Cover a basement floor drain with a permanent grid: Using a partially inflated inner tube in the area around the drain.
  • Clear the gutter: Make sure there's no debris blocking the gutter or drains. Ensure downspouts direct water away from the property.
  • Anchor fuel tanks securely: Fuel tanks can float in a flood or tip over. If they spill, it increases the risk of fire. Securely anchor the fuel tank to the floor and keep fill line openings and vents above any projected flood level. Propane tanks might require permission from a propane company so contact them first.
  • Have an emergency plan: Discuss where to find and turn off electric fuse boxes, natural gas mains and water service mains.
  • With files and important documents: Move files and other documents to a higher floor or shelving. Or, scan and save them in secure cloud storage.
  • With computer equipment and supplies: Keep expensive equipment on higher floors if the office is in a flood zone area. Add any new equipment or supplies onto the insurance policy.
  • With employees: Have a disaster preparedness plan in place. Include forwarding phones and working remotely to ensure continuity of business.
  • With business insurance: Check the business insurance policy. Standard policies do not include flood damage coverage. And, some policies may not cover damage to vehicles. These may have to be added as special insurance riders.

For Vehicles

  • Gas up the car early: If an evacuation is ordered and a power outage takes place, a gas station might be inoperable.
  • Plan the evacuation route: Find out in the province or territory where to go for higher elevations and shelters. For those in flood zones, have several routes available to get to higher ground.
  • With auto insurance: Check the auto insurance policy. Vehicles are usually protected in the event of a flood if the driver has comprehensive coverage. Regardless, drivers should take caution when driving during severe rains. Avoid driving through standing water. Even a small amount of water can stall a vehicle. Keep the evacuation supplies listed above in an emergency bag in the vehicle. These can help if a driver is ever stranded.

Homeowners and businesses can't predict the weather. But, by making flooding-preparedness changes, Canadians can decrease the damage a flood causes.