A Snowstorm that Cost Nearly $2.2B and Other January Natural Catastrophes: Aon

February 11, 2021

A snowstorm in Spain, called “Filomena,” caused business interruption and property losses estimated at nearly €1.8 billion ($2.2 billion), according to Aon’s monthly Global Catastrophe Recap report, which evaluates the impact of the natural disaster events that occurred worldwide during January 2021.

The report indicated a wide insurance protection gap for this event because insurance payments in the agricultural sector, along with flood-related property claims, only reached into the tens of millions of euros.

In the United States in January, an atmospheric river and low-pressure system brought intense wind and rain to the Pacific Northwest, Intermountain West and Northern Plains between Jan. 11-14, said the report. Widespread power outages, flash flooding, landslides, downed trees and property damage caused total economic losses estimated at $525 million. Slightly more than half of the losses were covered by insurance, said Aon.

An unseasonably strong high wind event affected central and southern California between Jan. 17-20. Wind gusts across the Sacramento Valley, Bay Area and Greater Los Angeles reached 60 to 70 mph (95 to 115 kph), with maximum gusts at higher elevations topping 90 mph (145 kph). Total losses were estimated at $350 million, with more than 50 percent covered by public and private insurers, said Aon.

Cyclone Eloise made an initial landfall in Madagascar on Jan. 19 before rapidly intensifying and striking Mozambique the same day as a Category 2-equivalent storm, killing at least 25 people. Landfall occurred near the city of Beira, which is still recovering from cyclones Idai and Kenneth (2019), and tens of thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed in Mozambique, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and South Africa.

“While the European Windstorm season to-date has been relatively calm in comparison to peak loss years, winter Storm Filomena brought wintry conditions and cold temperatures not seen in Spain in two decades,” said Michal Lörinc, catastrophe analyst for Aon’s Impact Forecasting team, in a statement. “Winter weather is not often a primary driver of annual financial losses, but the level of direct and indirect disruption due to extreme freeze or excessive snowfall can lead to notable commercial and supply chain challenges.”

Further natural hazard events occurring in January include:

  • Two notable outbreaks of severe weather with strong winds and heavy snowfall affected western Canada on Jan. 12-14 and 19-20. Total economic and insured losses were anticipated to reach into the tens of millions of dollars.
  • A magnitude-6.4 earthquake struck San Juan Province in west-central Argentina on Jan. 18. At least 3,000 structures were destroyed and 30,000 more were damaged.
  • In an active stretch of cyclonic weather, Windstorms Christoph and Hortense affected parts of Western Europe on Jan. 20-22 with strong winds and heavy rain. Significant flood-related losses from Christoph were registered in England and Wales.
  • Heavy snowfall and blizzard conditions affected northwestern parts of Japan from Jan. 7-12. As many as 23 people were killed, while total economic and insured losses were each expected to reach into the hundreds of millions of US dollars.

Source: Aon/Impact Forecasting

Photograph: A woman walks along Paseo Castellana covered with the snow in Madrid, Spain, on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, a 50-year record snowfall that paralyzed large parts of central Spain. Photo credit: AP Photo/Manu Fernandez.

Topics Catastrophe Aon

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