‘It was quite shocking when I read the notation that the insurers were being compelled to comply’
FREDERICTON _ New Brunswick’s environment minister has given a new sense of scale to the province’s record-setting floods, saying as many as 10,000 homes and businesses were within flood zones.
Andrew Harvey said Thursday that precise figures have yet to come in on the extent of the damage those structures suffered, as citizens are still filing their claims for disaster relief.
“There have been close to 10,000 for residential or commercial properties that could be affected,” he said during a news conference.
“Some of these numbers are moving as we get new information as to how many actual applications we have for disaster financial assistance.”
The minister said the figure was based on Service New Brunswick’s property identification numbers located within the flooded areas.
Provincial officials also said that as of Thursday morning, there were 2,200 people who had registered for the disaster relief program, which covers some of the uninsurable damages in an effort to get homeowners back on their feet.
Meanwhile, the province has estimated there are also about 2,000 recreational properties that have suffered damage.
The rivers swollen by heavy rains and snow melt swamped homes throughout the region and caused some cottages to collapse, with some even floating off their foundations.
Harvey also told reporters the province will have to consider changing the rules governing what can be built in the flood plains of the Saint John River and other waterways.
The province had announced that it will require property owners to start considering flood mitigation measures before they’re given a permit to rebuild or renovate in areas within 30 metres of the water.
However, Harvey conceded that this is merely a starting point, as wider changes to municipal bylaws and zoning rules have to be considered in the wake of the second major flood in a decade in his province.
“As time goes on those are decisions that are going to have to be made about zoning and about where people are building,” he said.
“These are some tough decisions that will have to be made … and we as a government at some point in the future will have to look at the issue about zoning.”
Craig Stewart, vice president of federal affairs for Insurance Bureau of Canada, said in an interview that there is no time to lose in getting fresh rules in place and suggests modeling them on zoning created in High River, Alta., which suffered devastating river flooding in 2013.
“This should have been done yesterday,” he said.
“Given lessons learned from flood events over the past few years, absolute priority should be given to changing zoning laws so that we stop putting people in harm’s way.”
After the 2013 floods, High River brought in bylaws that turned the highest risk areas into parkland and prohibited rebuilding in those areas.
Harvey said he’s hoping the most recent events are heightening awareness that flooding isn’t going to be a once-in-a-lifetime event.
“I mean hopefully the message to the people of New Brunswick today is, these are not one in every 100 years. These are 2008 and in 2018, who knows when the next flood could be? Nobody knows,” he said.
Harvey said one bright spot was the announcement on Thursday that the government of Nova Scotia would be making a $100,000 donation to the Canadian Red Cross to help residents.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil announced the funding, saying the province wants to “support our neighbours in their time of need.”
McNeil said about six provincial staff have also been sent to assist in the flood’s aftermath, to help process claims and inspect highway infrastructure.
McNeil said the help isn’t unusual.
GRAND FORKS, B.C. _ There is a feeling of “calm apprehension” in the southern British Columbia city of Grand Forks as officials warn of a coming second wave of flood waters, says Brett Swope.
The pastor at the Grand Forks Baptist Church said he noticed the flood waters returned on Tuesday when he drove down a local road covered in 15 centimetres of water. It had been dry on Monday, he said in an interview as he travelled around assessing the flood situation.
The residents of Grand Forks were unsure what water levels to expect in the coming days, Swope said.
“Some forecasts are calling for it to be higher, others are calling for it to be just lower than we had recently, but everybody’s just sort of bracing for the impact and trying to do everything they can to be prepared,” he said.
At least 1,500 homes in the Kootenay Boundary regional district, which includes Grand Forks, remained evacuated Tuesday following flooding over the last several days. Provincial officials say evacuation orders covered another 500 homes around the province, while more than 2,600 homes were on evacuation alert.
Swope said he’s been amazed at the community’s tireless labour.
“When I think of the sense of how our community is feeling, I think that they’re, you know, kind of approaching everything with a calm apprehension.”
He said “hundreds upon hundreds” of volunteers have prepared tens of thousands of sandbags in advance of potential flooding this week and residents are working from sun up to sun down.
Jessica Mace of the Kettle River Watershed Authority said temperatures higher than 30 C and exhausting work is wearing on the thousand plus volunteers in Grand Forks.
“People have been working really long hours,” said Mace, “they’re so thirsty and tired and worn out.”
Heavy rains and spring runoff combined to push floodwaters to levels not seen in 70 years in and around Grand Forks last week.
Gordy Shaw moved to Grand Forks with his wife eight years ago from Richmond because he said he was worried about dykes bursting in the Metro Vancouver city.
“I worked all the sawmills along the Fraser River, and I never anticipated this little Kettle River (in Grand Forks) would ever flow like it did today.”
Shaw said he had about 30 centimetres of water seep into his garage and learned over coffee with his neighbours on Tuesday that he was lucky compared with the damage experienced by others.
Chris Marsh of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary said water levels were rising again along the Granby and Kettle rivers, which meet in Grand Forks.
“The forecast from the River Forecast Centre is for levels that are possibly equivalent to or higher than the peaks we saw last year, which are record peaks,” added Marsh.
Emergency Management BC said the Boundary region and Similkameen Valley have already seen significant flooding, while risks are also high across the Okanagan and Shuswap regions.
Officials from the regional district said the rapid snowmelt is pushing river levels higher and there was a forecast of rain for the region by Wednesday.
An evacuation alert was also issued Tuesday by the township of Langley for part of Glen Valley, as well as Brae and McMillan islands, after the Fraser River was measured at 5.5 metres in Mission, about 70 kilometres east of Vancouver.
It was the first evacuation alert of the 2018 flood season for any community near Metro Vancouver.
By Spencer Harwood in Vancouver
Today, The Co-operators announced the addition of storm surge coverage to its Comprehensive Water product, becoming the first and only insurer in Canada to offer it. Waves caused by storms and hurricanes, known as storm surges, present a significant flood risk, especially in coastal regions where extreme weather patterns have noticeably intensified with the changing climate. Until now, storm surges have been uninsurable.
“Overland flooding has been identified as the most pervasive and costliest cause of damage to Canadian homes, yet most are inadequately protected against this growing risk. As a co-operative, it’s our priority to protect the financial security of Canadians. This is why we first introduced overland flood insurance in Canada,” said Rob Wesseling, president and CEO of The Co-operators. “Now, with the inclusion of storm surge coverage, we’re adding another layer of protection and providing peace of mind for those who need it most.”
Comprehensive Water is the only overland flood insurance in Canada available to those at the highest risk of flooding. Homeowners in British Columbia and Nova Scotia can now add this coverage to protect against the most common causes of water damage: overflowing lakes, rivers and creeks, sewer or septic backup, heavy rain and storm surge.
“The insurance industry has a critical role to play in building resilience in Canadian communities and addressing major risks like flooding,” said Paul Kovacs, executive director, Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction. “It’s encouraging to see companies like The Co-operators providing risk-appropriate options for coverage, while taking an active role in educating Canadians on their flood risk.”
According to a study by Partners for Action Network, 94 per cent of Canadians living in high-risk flood zones are unaware of their risk. To get a personalized flood assessment, Canadians can visit water.cooperators.ca.
In 2015, The Co-operators became the first Canadian insurer to offer overland flood insurance in Alberta and expanded this coverage to Ontario in 2016. Today, more than a quarter of a million Canadians are covered by the organization’s Comprehensive Water product. The flood model used by The Co-operators is recognized as one of the most advanced in Canada, and incorporates data on elevation, soil, rainfall, river flow, government-controlled defences like dams and channels, and other factors that help predict areas at risk of flooding.
Homeowners can add this coverage by contacting a local Co-operators insurance and financial advisor, using the “Find an Advisor” function at www.cooperators.ca.
About The Co-operators:
The Co-operators Group Limited is a Canadian co-operative with more than $41 billion in assets under administration. Through its group of companies it offers home, auto, life, group, travel, commercial and farm insurance, as well as investment products. The Co-operators is well known for its community involvement and its commitment to sustainability. The Co-operators is listed among the Best Employers in Canada by Aon Hewitt and Corporate Knights’ Best 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada. For more information, visit www.cooperators.ca.
BACKGROUNDER: Flood facts and The Co-operators flood model
- In Canada, floods have surpassed home fires as the costliest cause of damage to homes.
- 94% of Canadians living in high-risk flood zones are unaware of their risk and Less than 30% of Canadians are taking action to protect their property from flood risk, according to a recent study by Partners for Action.
- $79,000: The average cost to homeowners that suffered losses during the 2013 Calgary flood1.
- $40,000: The average cost to homeowners that suffered losses during flooding during the 2013 GTA flood2.
The Co-operators flood model
What factors go into assessing water risk?
Working with the world’s most established and advanced flood risk modeling experts, we created a risk model that enables us to offer water damage insurance that includes overland flooding and risks associated with water, septic and sewer backup, accumulation of water from extreme rain, overflow from lakes, rivers and other nearby bodies of water, and storm surge or waves from a storm or hurricane.
This flood model is recognized as one of the most advanced tools in Canadian flood mapping. It incorporates data on elevation, soil, rainfall, river flow, government-controlled defences like dams and channels, and other factors that help predict areas at risk of flooding.
How is storm surge risk determined?
The risk of storm surge is assessed in many ways. This includes historical water and sea-level rise in coastal regions, digital elevation models and loss mitigation efforts.
Canadians can take action to protect themselves using the following tips:
- Inspect plumbing pipes for corrosion or leaks and make any necessary repairs. Avoid discarding fats, oils and grease down drains; they can cause clogs when they solidify.
- Install a water damage alarm to serve as an early warning. This will give you a chance to turn off the water to your home and minimize damage.
- Installing an automatic back-up pump to your existing sump pump if you have one. Batteries or a generator can be used to power the back-up pump.
- Installing a backwater valve.
- Install downspouts to direct water away from your home.
- Keep foundation and window wells clear of snow so melt water doesn’t accumulate.
- Seal any cracks in your foundation walls and basement floors where accumulated water might get in.
- Install window wells around your basement windows to keep water out of your basement. Check them each spring to make sure drains aren’t clogged with debris.
- Maintain your eaves troughs regularly to keep them clear of leaves, twigs and other debris so they can steer water away from your home.
- Consider using a rain barrel to collect overflow water to prevent accumulation around your home.
- Keep storm drains clear of leaves and other debris to keep water from accumulating outside your home.
- Review rain checklist for simple steps you can follow to adapt to risks during periods of heavy rainfall.
1 2017. “Rising Waters, Difficult Decisions: Findings and Recommendations from the Calgary Flood Project” Mount Royal’s Centre for Community Disaster Researchhttp://www.mtroyal.ca/AboutMountRoyal/MediaRoom/Newsroom/report-unaware-flood-risk.htm
2 A 2014 IBC Survey
SOURCE The Co-operators
The ice storm that wreaked havoc across Ontario and Quebec in mid-April left behind a hefty price tag.
To date, 89.5 per cent of funds raised have been spent or committed