Germany and Austria are expected to account for more than half the losses

AIR Worldwide Corporation estimates insured onshore wind losses for Windstorm Emma will be between €750m and €1.3bn, with Germany and Austria accounting for more than half the total.

On Saturday, March 1, Windstorm Emma tore across a wide swath of central Europe, including Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK.

The storm brought heavy rain and hurricane-force winds, which caused significant damage to residential buildings. It also disrupted highway, rail, and air traffic, prompted flood alerts in the Netherlands along the North Sea, and cut power to thousands of households—some of which were still without power Monday. In the aftermath of the storm, fifteen people were reported dead.

“Wind gusts were recorded at 155 km/h (Fichtelberg), 152 km/h (Chemnitz), and 146 km/h (Benediktbeuren),” said Dr Peter Dailey, director of atmospheric science at AIR Worldwide. “Some of the highest gusts were observed in southern Germany’s high terrain and are not representative of typical lowland conditions with the highest exposure. Outside of Germany, gusts of 130 km/h were reported in both Salzburg and Vienna.”

Shortly after Emma exited Europe, AIR dispatched a survey team to southern Germany—one of the hardest hit regions. The team visited Bavarian municipalities and cities including Kolitzheim, Wadenbrunn, Zeilitzheim, Krautheim, and Lulsfeld. In this region, strong thunderstorms and locally intense winds caused significant damage to residential properties.

The predominant damage pattern to residential structures was wind damage to roofs in the form of missing tiles. Well-engineered commercial structures fared well. As expected, poorly constructed agricultural buildings suffered extensive damage, typically to roofs and windows. However, in some cases, barn walls collapsed due to suction forces. On one barn roof, solar cells were heavily damaged. At another barn, the entire roof collapsed. A greenhouse structure at another farm was completely demolished.

Damage from downed trees and wind-blown debris was also extensive. At one home, a wind-borne beam tore through a garage wall, damaging autos. High wind twisted copper sheeting into piles and bent power line poles to the ground. A tower was blown off a German monastery building.

“Emma was not as large as last season’s most severe event Windstorm Kyrill, which produced damaging winds in more than ten countries across Europe and resulted in the largest damage footprint in decades,” continued Dr Dailey. “Kyrill was a ‘broad brush’ event, indicating it had an elongated cold front oriented north to south, which often results in a very broad wind footprint. Kyrill also experienced a period of re-intensification as it passed over Germany resulting in locally severe and more widespread damage.”

Dr Dailey commented, “Though Kyrill’s footprint was larger than Emma’s, Emma packed higher sustained winds in some locations. Additionally, Emma’s cold front brought severe thunderstorm activity to southern Germany, which resulted in locally intense winds. As a result, localized damage to individual properties from Emma was generally higher than that from Kyrill, though less widespread.”

As with Kyrill, AIR expects the major share of losses to be in Germany. While Kyrill significantly affected regions of Westphalia and Lower Saxony, Emma created pockets of high damage in Bavaria.