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Aon Benfield Study: Extremely Active Severe Weather Season Brings Continued Misery to Parts of the US

Posted on 10 Jun 2011

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Aon Benfield, the global reinsurance intermediary and capital advisor of Aon Corporation today releases the latest edition of its Impact Forecasting Monthly Cat Recap report, which reviews the natural disaster perils that occurred worldwide during May.

Published by Impact Forecasting, the firm's catastrophe model development center of excellence, the report reveals that after a highly active April, severe weather events continued in the U.S. during the month of May with multiple outbreaks that left at least 169 people dead and more than 1,500 others injured.

According to the U.S. Storm Prediction Center, one particular outbreak during the latter half of the month spawned at least 275 unconfirmed tornado touchdowns across an area stretching from southern Texas to New England. The most devastating tornado came in the city of Joplin, Missouri, where a confirmed EF-5 – the highest level on the Enhanced Fujita Scale – caused catastrophic damage and loss of life.

The tornado was classified as the deadliest since records began in 1950, killing at least 141 people and injuring 1,150, and is likely to be one of the costliest tornadoes ever recorded.

Total economic and insured losses from U.S. severe weather events during May are expected to reach into the billions of dollars (USD).

Steve Jakubowski, President of Impact Forecasting, said: "The first half of 2011 has seen substantial severe weather and flood activity in the U.S., which has claimed hundreds of lives and has resulted in billions of dollars of re/insured losses and an even greater economic loss to the affected regions and the country as a whole. To put this period into perspective, the last year to see more than one EF-5 or F-5 tornado touchdown in the U.S. was 1998; yet in 2011 five EF-5 tornadoes have already been recorded."

Elsewhere in the U.S., flooding persisted throughout the Mississippi River Valley, northern New England and the northern Rockies during the month.

Along the Mississippi River, the American Farm Bureau Federation reported that over 3.6 million acres (1.45 million hectares) of farmland may have been damaged, with total economic losses reaching USD5 billion, and insured crop losses totaling at least USD1 billion.

Meanwhile, river flooding in Manitoba and Quebec provinces in Canada resulted in at least five fatalities. Total damages to property, agriculture and infrastructure are expected to exceed CAD1 billion (USD1.03 billion), and in Quebec, the Richelieu River Basin saw its worst flooding in at least 140 years.

A series of wildfires broke out across Alberta, Canada, including one devastating wildfire in Slave Lake town, where at least 431 homes and other structures were damaged or destroyed and nearly 100 others affected in surrounding communities. Insurers reported that losses could reach CAD200 million (USD206 million), which would make the event Canada's costliest wildfire on record

Major ongoing flooding in Colombia had resulted in 116 deaths by the end of May, and had submerged more than 1.06 million hectares (2.5 million acres) of land and damaged over 372,000 homes, amid a forecast total economic impact estimated at COP10.44 trillion (USD5.85 billion).

In Europe, a powerful storm swept across parts of Scotland, killing one person, damaging hundreds of homes and businesses and causing GBP4 million (USD6.5 million) in crop losses.

Two moderate earthquakes were recorded in southern Spain, killing at least nine people and injuring 400 others in the town of Lorca. At least 20,000 homes, buildings and other structures were damaged, with total economic losses estimated at EUR88.4 million (USD125 million), and insured losses expected to breach EUR70 million (USD99 million).