Early start to US severe weather season sees losses climb to $1.8bn – Impact Forecasting

Severe weather in the US in March has cost insurers an estimated $1.2bn, according to Aon Benfield’s Impact Forecasting. There were at least 65 tornado touchdowns during the month, including two EF-4 tornadoes that caused extensive damage in parts of southern Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and southwest Ohio and killed at least 41 people.

Total economic losses were estimated at approximately $2bn, while insured losses are expected to breach $1.1bn amid more than 170,000 insurance claims.

Additional US severe weather activity was recorded during the month, including a system that impacted the Great Lakes.

In south-eastern Michigan, an EF-3 tornado damaged or destroyed at least 207 homes in the town of Dexter. Total economic losses were estimated at $275m, while insurers received at least 20,000 claims with payouts expected to exceed $150m.

Late in the month, another storm system resulted in at least 46 tornado touchdowns across parts of the Plains, Midwest and the Southeast.

“Following an active 2011 US severe weather season, the first quarter of 2012 has also proven itself to be markedly busy,” said Impact Forecasting president Steve Jakubowski. “Through the first three months of 2012, we have already sustained more than $1.8bn in insured losses from convective storm events as we enter the climatologically most active severe weather months of the year.”

Elsewhere during the month, a magnitude-7.4 earthquake rattled central and southern Mexico, killing at least two people. The Mexican Association of Insurance Institutions reported insured losses of around $163m, following damage to 44,000 homes, businesses, hospitals and schools.

In other earthquake activity, a magnitude-7.1 temblor struck central Chile, and was labelled an aftershock from February 2010’s magnitude-8.8 event. Total economic losses are expected to be below $100m.

In China’s Xinjiang region, a magnitude-5.8 earthquake left 36,641 people homeless and caused direct economic losses of $82.7m.

Flooding affected portions of Australia’s New South Wales and Victoria between the end of February and the first half of March, killing at least two people. At least 8,914 claims were filed, with insured losses reaching $112.5m.

Additional flood events during the month were recorded in parts of the Philippines, Fiji, Ecuador, Chile, Colombia and the US.

Cyclone Irina’s landfall led to the deaths of at least 84 people in Madagascar, Mozambique and South Africa. More than 78,000 were left homeless and wide swaths of agriculture were submerged.

Also in March, Cyclone Lua made landfall in Western Australia and caused minimal damage. Total economic losses of $230m came from lost business when Port Hedland briefly closed.