Under the weather.

Robin Schroffel February 04, 2019
Image showing house roofs in silhouette in the foreground, with a stormy evening sky in the background.

Each season brings risks for homeowners.

With severe weather on the rise, make sure you’ve got the right insurance coverage.

Golf ball-size hail, gale-force winds, extreme heat and cold, flash floods and powerful tornados: Manitoba residents are no strangers to extreme weather. Unfortunately, climate change projections indicate that things are likely to get worse.

According to the provincial government, Manitoba will face earlier and more severe climate change than many other parts of the world—thanks to our geographic location. So, exactly what can we expect? Warmer and wetter winters, coupled with longer, hotter and drier summers. This, in turn, means we’ll probably encounter more frequent severe weather events: heat waves, droughts, floods and intense winter storms.

It’s a trend that CAA Manitoba’s Melanie McGimpsey says is already being reflected in home and property insurance. “Historically, insurance is based on fire, but it’s now becoming more weather-related - wind, water and hail damage,” says the property and casualty insurance supervisor. “Weather has made a huge impact on the trends of insurance over the past few years.”

Each season brings risks for homeowners. Severe winter temperatures can freeze and burst pipes, especially in areas with older infrastructure. Alternating chills and thaws exacerbate ice damming - the process whereby a ridge of ice forms along the edge of a roof, preventing water from draining and potentially damaging a home’s roof, ceilings and walls.

Spring tends to be a time of flooding and storms. Floods have long been part of local life, particularly along the Red and Assiniboine river basins. First Nations’ oral histories suggest major flooding as far back as 1776; 1826 data shows a flood that remains the Red River’s worst on record. More recently, flooding in 1950, 1997, 2006, 2009 and 2011 caused substantial damage to homes and infrastructure.

Summer and fall typically bring tornadoes. In 2018, eight twisters touched down in Manitoba, including one rated EF-4, the second-highest severity classification. In 2007, the community of Elie was hit by the most severe tornado in Canadian history, with winds reaching up to 510 kilometres per hour.

Luckily, insurance can help protect homeowners from sudden and accidental losses due to extreme weather. While coverage for damages from hail and wind comes standard in a homeowner’s policy, protection for water damage does not. “In recent years, insurers have introduced optional coverages that protect homeowners from overland flooding, groundwater and sewer backup,” says McGimpsey. (Rates are based on postal code and the chance of a loss happening in that area, so it’s not available in all areas.) Service-line coverage is another product that protects homeowners when a pipe freezes and bursts after it leaves the home but before it crosses the property line.

Whatever the weather, make sure you top up your insurance coverage to stay warm, dry and safe.