Insurance industry set to release new neighbourhood-level flood maps for Edmonton

ELISE STOLTE | Edmonton Journal

Edmonton residents who need overland flood insurance the most either don’t know they need it or can’t afford what’s offered, an insurance expert warned city council Monday.

It’s a national problem, Bill Adams, western vice-president for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, told council’s utility committee. When the industry polls citizens, “those Canadians who are highest at risk of flood are completely oblivious.”

“They just don’t believe they’re at risk,” said Adams, promising to show updated flood maps to Edmonton residents this spring. “We need to ensure that the flood maps, the risk, is known.”

Councillors are wrestling with how to tackle flood mitigation, how to balance the responsibility of home and business owners to insure their property and the public responsibility to reduce risks for everyone. It’s a difficult question because to rebuild all Edmonton infrastructure to protect against a one-in-100-year river flood or flash flood could cost $3.5 billion and take decades.

Edmonton should be trying to build at least enough flood protection infrastructure — stormwater ponds and larger storm sewers — to ensure private insurance agencies can offer an affordable product, said Coun. Ben Henderson.

A Millbourne home after flooding from a storm in 2012. KATHY BROWER / SUPPLIED

He and many others live in the river valley, where the city approved development, he said. But overland flooding insurance for his neighbourhood, Rossdale, costs thousands of dollars. It’s unaffordable, he said.

Currently, 37 per cent of Albertans have decided to buy the new overland flood protection plans new to the market, said Adams. The provincial government has said it will stop offering emergency coverage to flooded homeowners when these policies are widespread and affordable, but hasn’t defined what that means.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada will be at this year’s Get Ready in the Park event to share flood maps the insurance industry developed. That event is in Hawrelak Park on May 12 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Assessing the risk

Flood risk in Edmonton is varies from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, with some facing risk from river flooding, but others far from the river facing risk from flash floods. The latter depends upon geography, but also the size and position of sewer pipes homeowners can’t see.

Flash floods hit Mill Woods and many south-central communities in 2004 and 2012. A downpour stalled over specific neighbourhoods, flooding 1,200 basements.

Epcor has taken over Edmonton’s flood mitigation work. It is developing a ranked list of priority projects for the most as-risk neighbourhoods, said Susan Ancel, Epcor’s director of stormwater strategies.

Epcor is also hoping to partner with Intact, a University of Waterloo-affiliated centre of expertise that is developing a home audit system for homeowners. The program, currently being run as a trial in several communities, sends experts to help homeowners understand the specific risks they face, get advice and then have their home rated for flood projection. The audit program would give a credit to get a reduction on insurance rates.

Ancel said city staff are also looking at Halifax and Mississauga programs, which give home and business owners credit on their utility rates if they have more permeable landscaping to absorb rainwater.

B.C. offers financial aid to southern Interior residents hit by March flood

VICTORIA _ Residents of British Columbia’s southern Interior hit by flooding or other damage from an early spring downpour can apply for relief from the provincial government.

The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General says financial assistance is available after heavy rains in late March caused overland flooding or landslides.

A news release from the ministry says disaster financial assistance is available to homeowners, tenants, farmers, small businesses and even local governments that could not obtain insurance for certain disaster-related losses.

If allowed, the ministry says assistance claims can cover 80 per cent of eligible damage that exceeds $1,000, to a maximum claim of $300,000.

Applications are available online and will be accepted from claimants across the North Okanagan, Columbia Shuswap, Okanagan-Similkameen and Central Okanagan regional districts.

Torrential downpours swept across the southern Interior starting on March 22 washing out roads, causing localized flooding and bringing down rock and mudslides, prompting several regions, including the City of Armstrong, to declare local states of emergency.

February storms, floods caused more than $57 million in insured damage

Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) reports that a significant winter storm and flood event, which affected parts of Southern Ontario and Quebec, resulted in more than $57 million in insured damage, according to Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ).

From February 19-22, 2018, a slow-moving high pressure system brought high temperatures and heavy rains to parts of Southern Ontario, including BrantfordChathamKentLondonCambridge, and parts of the Greater Toronto Area. Heavy rains also affected Quebec’s Eastern Townships and parts of Quebec City. The rainfall and high temperatures caused flooding in several parts of the region. Over $43 million in insured damage was reported in Ontario and over $14 millionin Quebec.

“Climate change is causing severe weather events more frequently throughout the year, especially storms involving floods,” said Kim Donaldson, Vice-President, Ontario, IBC. “Since flooding can cause significant damage in a very short time, it is important for consumers to know what their policies cover and whether they have overland flood protection. Consumers should check with their insurance representatives to see what options are available to them.”

For more information on how to protect property against floods and other disasters please visit IBC’s website.

About Insurance Bureau of Canada
Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is the national industry association representing Canada’s private home, auto and business insurers. Its member companies make up 90% of the property and casualty (P&C) insurance market in Canada. For more than 50 years, IBC has worked with governments across the country to help make affordable home, auto and business insurance available for all Canadians. IBC supports the vision of consumers and governments trusting, valuing and supporting the private P&C insurance industry. It champions key issues and helps educate consumers on how best to protect their homes, cars, businesses and properties.

P&C insurance touches the lives of nearly every Canadian and plays a critical role in keeping businesses safe and the Canadian economy strong. It employs more than 120,000 Canadians, pays $9 billion in taxes and has a total premium base of $52 billion.

For media releases and more information, visit IBC’s Media Centre at Follow IBC on Twitter @InsuranceBureau or like us on Facebook. If you have a question about home, auto or business insurance, contact IBC’s Consumer Information Centre at 1-844-2ask-IBC.

About CatIQ
Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ) delivers detailed analytical and meteorological information on Canadian natural and man-made catastrophes. Through its online subscription-based platform, CatIQ combines comprehensive insured loss indices and other related information to better serve the needs of the insurance and reinsurance industries, public sector and other stakeholders. To learn more, visit

If you require more information, IBC spokespeople are available to discuss the details in this media release.

SOURCE Insurance Bureau of Canada

‘Water is the new fire,’ says the Insurance Bureau of Canada


Paving over porous paradise, or any absorbent ground, increases the risk of basement flooding, say researchers using City of Toronto data.

Their study could help GTA homeowners make sense of the sometimes-ridiculed notion that the amount of land people cover with buildings, parking pads, parking lots and more, is linked to the costly rising tide of urban flooding that is expected to worsen in coming years.

“From what we have seen, areas with less green space — mostly developed areas, without any consideration for pervious or green areas — are more likely to have this kind of basement flooding,” says Yekenalem Abebe, a University of British Columbia engineering PhD candidate who co-authored the study with UBC civil engineering professor Solomon Tesfamariam and Golam Kabir, a University of Windsor assistant professor in engineering.

Other factors make basements prone to invasion from “pluvial” flooding — rainwater unable to soak into the ground, as opposed to “fluvial” flooding, which occurs when bodies of water overflow. They include aging, deteriorating sewer pipes and other infrastructure meant to steer rainfall away from homes. In Toronto, some of those pipes are more than a century old and, when overwhelmed by big storms, send untreated sewage from downtown into Lake Ontario.

Images of residential flooding, including Brantford in recent weeks, Toronto Islands last summer and across the U.S., are becoming more common.

The researchers didn’t get all the data they wanted while developing a “flood vulnerability index” that any city can use. But even if they had, Abebe said, “I would still expect pavement and impervious surfaces to be one of the most important factors,” in basement flooding risk. Urbanization is accelerating the loss of absorbent ground, communities are being hit more frequently with intense storms, and costly-to-replace infrastructure is failing to handle the runoff.

The researchers divided Toronto into 760 “grid cells,” each about one square kilometre. Using city data they assigned each grid a probability of risk.

At “very high risk” for basement flooding, according to the study, is an area spreading north from Humber Bay and widening to include neighbourhoods around High Park, Swansea and The Junction, and the downtown core. Safest is the high ground in Scarborough from the Bluffs north.

The findings of the study, published late last year in the Journal of Cleaner Production, come as no surprise to Shawna Peddle, a director of Partners for Action, which promotes flood resiliency and is based at the University of Waterloo.

“We’re definitely seeing an increase in urban flooding everywhere — it’s not just Toronto, it’s everywhere across the country and it’s because we are paving over what would normally soak up the water — the water has nowhere to go,” Peddle said in an interview.

“Even if we’re having just a little more rain than we used to, the water ends up in basements and flooding roadways, flooding parks. The weather is changing, we are seeing more rain events more often. That combined with increased development, infrastructure that’s aging, us paving over areas that used to be able to soak up the water — the result is more (flood) events and bigger losses, too.”

Partners for Action offers homeowners tips, including how to check on the flood risk for their homes, on keeping valuables upstairs and checking with their insurance companies on the kinds of water damage they cover.

Cities are encouraging green roof construction, which sees rooftops covered with vegetation, downspout disconnections, and the use of porous hard surfaces and cisterns to capture and reuse rainwater.

They are also trying to figure out where to find the canyons of cash needed to replace and upgrade storm sewer systems and fund flood-risk-reducing incentive programs. Toronto last year paid $7.1 million just to subsidize homeowner installation of backwater valves and other measures to reduce the chance of residential basement flooding, up from $3.1 million in 2013.

Two years ago, Mississauga added a stormwater charge on Peel region water bills ranging from $50 to $170 per year, depending on the size of the roof and runoff potential. More than $30 million in annual revenues are being pumped into a dedicated fund to pay for stormwater infrastructure maintenance and upgrades.

Torontonians pay for pipe replacement and other parts of a stormwater management plan through water consumption fees. City staff had suggested shifting more of the costs to home- and business-owners with the biggest hard surfaces, including parking lots and roofs.

But last May, Toronto Mayor John Tory’s executive committee shelved indefinitely a staff recommendation to propose options for a stormwater charge.

The idea of such a charge had been ridiculed by councillor Giorgio Mammoliti and former councillor Doug Ford, who is now seeking the leadership of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative party, as a “roof tax,” an attack on suburban homeowners and “a measure to get into people’s pockets.”

For basement damage, the cost is borne by homeowners and their insurers. A massive thunderstorm that hit Toronto in July 2013 became one of Canada’s most expensive insured losses at almost $1 billion, mostly from sewer backup claims.

The head of one of Europe’s largest insurers recently warned the World Economic Forum that, if climate change advances, basements in some cities could be uninsurable, Bloomberg news agency reported.

But GTA homeowners have more options for flood coverage than ever because the risk is top of mind, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

“Water is the new fire because, in the past, fire damage to someone’s home used to be the predominant peril or event that people wanted to protect their property or homes from,” said Pete Karageorgos, the bureau’s Ontario director of consumer and industry relations. “Now it’s water damage of all sorts, from plumbing fixtures and internal leaks, but now more so from external type of water,” that might require special coverage.

“People are recognizing there are severe weather events such as rainstorms that are occurring that are depositing larger amounts of rain in shorter amounts of time and impacting our communities.”

Flood damage not covered by most standard home insurance plans

Geoff Bartlett · CBC News 

Residents of western Newfoundland whose homes were flooded this week may have high hopes that their insurance will cover the damage, but that’s only the case if they’ve signed up for proper protection.

Heavy rain and melting snow combined to create big problems for many homeowners throughout the region, with some forced out of their homes and countless others dealing with flooded basements or worse.

This home and garage in Benoit’s Cove was mostly submerged by waters from a nearby brook on Saturday. (Submitted by Kyle Lowe)

In the Humber Arm South community of Benoit’s Cove, one elderly couple had to be woken up and escorted out of their home just hours before it was completely submerged.

Homeowners hit by the flooding may be wondering if their insurance coverage will pay for the damages, but according to Insurance Brokers Association of Newfoundland Chair Kent Rowe, it will likely depend on whether they have something called overland water protection.

Newly available

Overland water protection has  been available to residential insurance customers in Newfoundland and Labrador only for the last two or three years.

It provides coverage for loss or damages related the sudden accumulation of water after heavy rains, spring runoff or overflow of lakes and rivers. It does not apply to saltwater damage.

“In the cases that I think affected most people as a result of the weather this past weekend in western Newfoundland, I would think that overland water protection would be the endorsement that would be needed to afford coverage to most people,” Rowe told the Corner Brook Morning Show.

“If somebody has that coverage and is affected by that kind of a loss, then they should have coverage for the damage.”

Overland water damage, as seen at this home in Pasadena in western Newfoundland, usually requires a special insurance add-on in order to be covered by most plans. (Submitted by Nadine Delaney)

A typical standard homeowners insurance policy does not cover overland water damage. Rowe said people should work with their broker to ensure they have it if there is a risk of flooding in their neighbourhood.

 ‘These things are too important to assume you’re covered for everything.’– Kent Rowe

He cautioned that some clients might be denied the coverage if their insurer deemed the property location too risky.

According to Rowe, overland water damage has only just become readily available because it took companies a while to figure out how to rate it in Newfoundland and Labrador. He recommends also getting sewer backup coverage, which is also excluded from most standard policies.

Kent Rowe of the Insurance Broker’s Association of Newfoundland and Labrador says most people are not covered for overland water damage. (CBC)

Rowe said homeowners who had damage this week should still call their insurance company, even if they don’t have overland water damage protection. That’s because an adjuster will do an investigation into the damage, which at the very least will provide some useful information.

Don’t take insurance for granted

While he sympathized with those who are not covered and have to pay out of pocket for damage, Rowe said he can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure you have the right insurance plan after buying a house.

“The message is, ‘Talk to your broker.’ Don’t make assumptions. These things are too important to assume you’re covered for everything,” he said,

“Sometimes people take their insurance product for granted and they purchase the bare minimums and look at it as a bit of a grudge purchase. But you really need to carefully evaluate what you’re doing when you’re buying an insurance policy.”

White House seeks $29B for disaster aid, flood insurance

By Andrew Taylor


WASHINGTON _ The Trump administration on Wednesday asked Congress for $29 billion in disaster aid to cover ongoing hurricane relief and recovery efforts and to pay federal flood insurance claims.

The request comes as the government is spending almost $200 million a day for emergency hurricane response and faces a surge in flood claims for federally insured homes and businesses slammed by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told lawmakers in officially submitting the request that the federal flood insurance program “is not designed to handle catastrophic losses like those caused by Harvey, Irma, and Maria. The NFIP is simply not fiscally sustainable in its current form.”

Mulvaney proposed a package of changes to the flood insurance program that, among others, would protect low-income policyholders from big rate hikes, allow the government to drop from the program properties that have been repeatedly flooded, and phasing out policies on new homes in flood zones.

In the meantime, Wednesday’s request proposal would provide $16 billion to pay those flood claims, along with $13 billion for Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief efforts. Federal firefighting accounts would receive $577 million as well to replenish them after a disastrous season of Western wildfires.

The Senate’s top Democrat quickly backed the aid request but signalled opposition to the administration’s proposed restrictions on flood insurance.

‘This funding request is a good start, but those affected by Maria, Harvey, Irma and wildfires still have a long and difficult road ahead,” said Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.  “We should act on this supplemental quickly, but it should be just the beginning of Congress’ efforts to aid in rebuilding.”

Congress last month approved a $15.3 billion aid package that combined community development block grant rebuilding funds with emergency money for cleanup, repair and housing.

The federal flood insurance program is on track to run out of money to pay claims during the week of Oct. 23. Mulvaney said more than 20,000 federal workers have been deployed by various agencies to help in the hurricane recovery effort. The “burn rate” of almost $200 million a day is requiring an infusion of cash into FEMA coffers.

The request would bring the price tag for this year’s costly hurricane season to about $44 billion and that’s before rebuilding efforts get under way in earnest. A final estimate is a ways away since damage assessments of Puerto Rico may take some time, but Mulvaney said the administration will submit assessments in time for a budget hoped-for budget agreement later this year.

The year-end package would rebuild infrastructure, help people without insurance restore their homes, and, perhaps, help Puerto Rico reconstitute its shattered electrical grid.

‘The hundreds of thousands of people affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria have suffered enough. Congress must provide whatever is necessary to get these families back on their feet and to rebuild their communities,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J. “This will be a long process, and this next round of funds certainly won’t be all that is needed.”

Congress is in the midst of an effort to reauthorize the flood insurance program, which critics say makes taxpayers subsidize properties that have repeatedly flooded. A bipartisan effort to reform the program was enacted in 2012. It was significantly watered down just two years later after complaints of huge premium increases and resulting disruptions in coastal real estate markets. But there’s sure to be bipartisan opposition to Mulvaney’s extensive roster of changes to the program, which has strong backing from Republicans in coastal states.

Trump raised eyebrows in a Tuesday interview with Fox News when he said the Puerto Rican government’s debt would have to be “wiped out.”

“They owe a lot of money to your friends on Wall Street and we’re going to have to wipe that out,” Trump said.

But on Wednesday, Mulvaney told reporters that “we are not going to be offering a bailout for Puerto Rico or for its current bondholders.”

Trump surveyed hurricane damage in Puerto Rico on Tuesday. He praised his administration’s response, even as lawmakers returning from the island say the president is painting far too rosy a picture.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., the situation there presents more difficult challenges than disasters in the continental U.S. For instance, without power or internet service, victims of Maria can’t go online to register for aid. Housing vouchers are largely useless since the entire Island is devastated. He said many thousands of Puerto Ricans will need to be evacuated to the U.S. mainland.

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