Buckle up Western Canada, costly storms on the rise

VIDEO: While temperatures across the Prairies were well below zero on Monday, the April melt in the East – after months of heavy snow – is causing flooding. Lauren McNabb reports.

One hundred thousand people kicked out of their homes or otherwise temporarily displaced and $2 billion in damages to infrastructure alone.

That’s part of the costly toll inflicted by the deadly floods that swept over southern Alberta last spring. And it’s the kind of catastrophe experts say we’ll see with greater frequency.

The worse news for those who reside west of Ontario: If recent history is any guide, the inclement weather will fall disproportionately on Western Canada.

“Since 2000, the majority of Canadian natural catastrophes have taken place in the western provinces,” TD Economics said in a special report Monday.

TD doesn’t venture at much of a guess as to why the weather is playing havoc with western provinces more so than regions further east.

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The report does not the continued urbanization of the Canadian population.

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Enticed by better job prospects, population growth in Western Canada is moving at faster clip than the rest of the country.

Nearly 57,000 people moved to Calgary last year, according to Statistics Canada. A surging population coupled with worsening weather means more chances of damage to property, TD said.

“Changes in weather patterns are not fully responsible for the increased incidence of natural catastrophe,” TD economists Craig Alexander and Connor McDonald said in the research report. “Socioeconomic factors have also played a significant role.”

READ MORE: Migration to Alberta is exploding

But across Canada, storms are getting bigger and nastier period.

Storms that used to occur once every 40 years are happening at least once a decade now, according to the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction.

“There is some evidence that the severe weather is becoming more common in Canada,” the two TD economists say.

READ MORE: Extreme weather triggers record insurance claims in 2013

Stitch in time saves nine

The report says governments and private-sector developers should spend more now to fortify bridges, roads and transit systems (a list of the country’s top 100 infrastructure underway can be found here. A quick search, perhaps troublingly, turned up one reference to ‘weather’ in the 72-page document, and none for ‘catastrophe’ or ‘disaster’.)

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“If no efforts are made to upgrade infrastructure to withstand harsh conditions, natural catastrophes could cost Canadians dearly,” TD says.

The price tag for inaction is $5-billion annually by 2020, TD estimates. But a dollar invested now could save between $9 and $38 in “avoided damages” in the future, the report suggests.

For consumers, it’s helpful if their workplaces remain open and business can generally carry on through the harsher weather, as well.

They’ll likely need the income to cover the rise in vehicle and home insurance premiums.

WATCH: The bill for last summer’s flooding of Calgary and southern Alberta 

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