Here’s how much climate change can cost homeowners in damages
Canadians in communities across the country have been coping with flooding over the past week.
In Quebec, some 1,500 across almost 150 municipalities have had to leave their homes, and the Canadian Forces have dispatched around 1,650 personnel to support the aid efforts in affected areas. Flooding hit more than 300 homes in Ottawa. In British Columbia, mudslides have left two people missing. And more Canadians were scrambling to protect their properties in New Brunswick, where the St. John River spilled over after nearly 150 millimetres of rain fell in parts of the province.
WATCH: Flooding wreaks havoc on Canadian cities
Such extreme weather events are only going to become more frequent due to climate change, said Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo.
Flooding, in particular, is the number 1 risk facing Canadian homeowners. For every 1 C increase in temperature, there is a seven per cent increase in air moisture, which leads to more rainfall, he told Global News.
Temperatures in Canada have already risen between 2 C and 3 C over the past century, he noted. And as the earth warms, other types of extreme weather events, from fires to ice storms, will become more common.
Here’s a look at the financial damage Canadian homeowners are potentially facing:
The average cost of a flooded basement in major urban centres is $42,000 according to Feltmate.
Until recently, most of that cost reflected instances of homeowners experiencing sewer backup, which usually occurs when heavy rainfall overwhelms the public sewer system, sending sewage back up into homes through drain pipes.
However, roughly one-third of the value of damages from flooded basements now comes from overland flooding, which generally means water from swollen waterways enters homes through doors and windows.
Two types of insurance
While sewer backup is covered by regular flood insurance, coverage for overland flooding has only been available in Canada for the past two years, said Feltmate. The impetus for insurers to start offering overland flooding insurance came after the 2013 flooding in Alberta.
Even Canadians who live nowhere close to rivers or lakes are at increased risk of flooding, as so-called “micro-bursts” or storms that dump high amounts of rain in a short period of time, have become commonplace across the country. Many do not know that their plain-vanilla home insurance doesn’t include flood damage, Feltmate warned.
WATCH: Here’s why cities flood more easily than rural areas
Flood insurance coverage isn’t straightforward
Unlike fire insurance, which generally will cover up to the cost of rebuilding the home, flood insurance isn’t straightforward, noted Feltmate.
“Damage due to flooding isn’t a simple equation,” he noted.
The amount of damage covered is generally determined via an algorithm that takes into account variables such as the source of the flooding, he added.
Even Canadians who have coverage might face limits or hard caps on the amount their insurance provider will actually pay back, said Feltmate.
How to prevent flooding and mitigate damage
For information on how to protect your home from flooding and minimize damage, please read here.
WATCH: Gatineau residents continue to deal with flooding
Wildfires are another significant source driving up the costs of damages from severe weather events across Canada, said Feltmate.
The average cost of damage to residential property in the Fort McMurray fire of 2016 was $80,000, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC). The total amount of insurable damage was $3.7 billion, IBC said.
Fire insurance is far more common and comprehensive than flood insurance, but Canadians who lost their homes to fire will face higher premiums, Feltmate noted.
WATCH: How Sask. stepped up to help a year ago as Fort McMurray was devastated by a wildfire
What you can do to protect your home
Some of the work of protecting communities from wildfires invariably falls with local government, Feltmate noted. Clearing ground around high-risk communities, for example, can help stop or slow down a fire.
Homeowners, too, however, can take steps to make their homes safer, by picking fire-proof material for their shingles and back porch, and not stacking wood or other flammable materials against the exterior walls, for example, said Feltmate.
Even with insurance coverage, the “return on investment of taking these precautions is orders of magnitude,” he told Global News.
Climate change also means more chances to lace up and skate around your neighbourhood streets.
But while ice storms can be spectacular and fun, at least for a little while, they’re no friends to homeowners.
The most common damage from ice storms comes from tree branches falling on power lines and ripping off the electrical mast, a conduit attached to the side of the house that houses electrical wiring.
READ MORE: Photos: Ice storm slams southern Ontario
Repairing an electrical mast costs between $750 and $1,200 in Toronto, according to local electricians consulted by Global News. The city suffered a massive ice storm in 2013, which saddled the municipal electricity distributor with $12.9 billion in costs.
There may also be additional costs depending on whether your local utilities provided charges a fee, as is the case in Toronto, for disconnecting and reconnecting power, which is often necessary when repairing a mast.
What to do to limit the damage
Make sure your mast is securely attached to the house, said Feltmate, but above all, ensure that there are no tree branches close to the power lines. In cities, Canadians will likely have to call their municipal services to get trees in residential streets trimmed back. However, homeowners are usually responsible for trimming trees and shrubs on their property.
WATCH: Toronto’s Ice Storm One Year Later
Windstorms are another major cause of tree branches falling onto power lines and detaching electrical masts, said Hellen Alafogiannis, a certified electrician and general manager at AC Electrical Contractors in Toronto.
Windstorms caused between $25 million and $100 million in insurable damage in 2016 and 2017, according to IBC.
How to secure your home
In addition to removing tree branches hovering over your power lines, ways to protect your home during a windstorm include installing impact-resistant windows and doors, inspecting your roof for loose shingles, and securing your patio furniture and outdoor tools, according to RBC Insurance.
Get ready for more hail, too, said Feltmate, who singled out southern Alberta as particularly at-risk from golf-ball-sized chunks of ice falling from the sky.
“A typical hail storm can cause anywhere from $30 million to $60 million in insured damage. 2016 had a hail storm in Alberta that caused over $300 million in damage,” noted IBC’s Andrew McGrath.
WATCH: Hail storm slams central Alberta
Hail can batter your roof and siding, but Canadians are likely to have coverage for that. Much less obvious is whether their insurance will pay for dents left on their car — or whether it’s even worth filing a claim.
According to personal finance magazine MoneySense, only “comprehensive” car insurance includes hail damage.
Coverage is generally pricey and might not be worth it for older cars, the publication noted.
How to protect your property
When it comes to your house, in much the same way as in a windstorm, according to RBC Insurance. And if you have a garage, make sure that’s where your car is when “all hail breaks loose.”
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