Update: Quebec Flooding Recovery

Public Safety Canada

On June 5, 2017, the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and the Honourable Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, met with Martin Coiteux, Minister of Public Security of Quebec, to discuss the progress of flood recovery efforts in Quebec.

As the urgency of the situation has subsided in Quebec, and remediation efforts are well within the scope of provincial and municipal authorities to provide, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel will be leaving the area.

At its peak, there were over 2,600 military personnel deployed across Quebec to provide assistance to flood mitigation and recovery efforts. The Government Operations Centre was fully activated to respond to this event and coordinate the support of many partners including: the CAF, Transport Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency, Public Services and Procurement Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, Natural Resources Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, and the Canadian Red Cross, as per the Federal Emergency Response Plan.

The Government of Canada works closely with provincial and municipal authorities affected by floods, and remains on alert ready to provide whatever assistance is needed.

Catastrophe Recap: January 2017

Source: Aon Benfield Global Catastrophe Recap
A dangerous ice storm impacted portions of Atlantic Canada from January 24-27, 2017 leading to the deaths of two people. Dozens of others were hospitalized. The storm system led to significant accumulations of freezing rain ice and snow to portions of Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador. At the peak of the event, as many as 133,000 New Brunswick Power customers were without electricity after the storm wreaked havoc on the electrical grid. Total economic damage was expected well into the tens of millions (USD).

Manitoba forecasters say major flooding possible in province this year

Manitobans are being warned that major flooding is possible in much of the province this spring.

Forecasters say a combination of high soil moisture levels and lots of snow could cause moderate to major flooding.

Infrastructure Minister Blaine Pedersen said the severity of any flooding will partly depend on how much rain and snow falls in the coming months, as well as the timing and rate of the spring thaw.

“We have experienced some unusual winter weather to this point that has contributed to an expanded risk of overland flooding,” Pedersen said January 30. 2017.

Areas at risk of major flooding include the Red, Souris, Pembina, Lower Assiniboine and Roseau river basins and the southwest region of the province.

The Upper Assiniboine River, the Winnipeg River, the eastern region, northern Manitoba and The Pas regions _ including the Saskatchewan, Carrot and Swan rivers _ are at risk of moderate to major flooding.

Pedersen said it is early yet, but the government is planning for the highest potential flood risk and plans to release a full updated forecast next month.

He said Winnipeg and the Red River Valley are well protected. The government is reviewing emergency response plans and sharing information with municipalities.

“We are being proactive in terms of our planning,” he said.

“The department is up and running and drawing on the experience that they have had in past years and lessons learned from the past.”

Parts of Manitoba were hit by major floods in 2014 and 2011 that caused extensive damage and forced some people from their homes.

In 2014, the province declared a state of emergency and called on the military to help with sandbagging when floodwater poured into the Assiniboine River.

A government-commissioned report released last year found dozens of potential weaknesses in Manitoba’s flood defences and recommended $1.1 billion in upgrades to prevent future flood damage.

The study by engineering firm KGS Group said defences along the Assiniboine River between Portage la Prairie and Winnipeg are particularly weak.

“The flood of 2011 highlighted several potential weak links in the existing flood-control systems. The shortcomings of the system were emphasized again in 2014,” said the study.

The study said the Portage diversion _ a channel that moves water from the river to Lake Manitoba _ and dikes along the riverbank needed upgrading.

Last January, the Progressive Conservatives, who were then in Opposition, accused the NDP government of ignoring flood infrastructure along the Assiniboine River for years.

 

Alberta fires push Canada’s insurable damage to record $4.9 billion in 2016: IBC

The wildfires in Fort McMurray, Alta., and flooding in Atlantic Canada were driving factors behind a record $4.9 billion in insurable damage last year, the Insurance Bureau of Canada said Friday, January 6, 2017.

The industry group said the estimated insurable damage toll was about $1.7 billion higher than the previous full-year record of $3.2 billion set in 2013.

Canada’s most costly disaster last year was the northern Alberta wildfire that forced the evacuation of Fort McMurray and surrounding areas, reducing to charred rubble 1,800 single-family homes and numerous other structures including buildings containing about 600 apartments or condo units.

The hit to insurers from the fires was estimated at $3.7 billion, three-quarters of the national total for the year and twice as expensive as the previous most-expensive natural disaster in Canada on record.

But the bureau also highlighted floods that destroyed houses and washed out roads in parts of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland over the Thanksgiving weekend last year, causing about $100 million in insurable damage.

It cited other disasters including March ice storms in southern Ontario that left thousands without power and a July hail storm in Moose Jaw, Sask., that caused $71 million in damage to vehicles, houses and other property.

“The weather continues to worsen and (Canadians) continue to be affected by these storms,” said Insurance Bureau CEO Don Forgeron, adding at least 12 storms in 2016 resulted in damage of over $1 million.

“Governments need to focus on what we describe as adaptation issues, how do we help Canadians better prepare, both physically and financially, for the effects of climate change.”

Forgeron said governments are adopting policies to restrict greenhouse gas emissions, but not spending enough time and money on planning for the severe weather that climate change is already causing in Canada.

He added that payouts are a key component in determining future insurance premiums, but no single disaster or year of disasters will necessarily result in higher costs to consumers.

In an audit published last May, the federal environment and sustainable development commissioner recommended that the National Building Code be updated to account for severe weather events stemming from climate change.

In an email on Friday, Philip Rizcallah, director of construction research for the National Research Council of Canada, said the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes is looking at data from the Fort McMurray wildfire in order to develop possible changes for the next publication in 2020.

He said proposed changes to the national codes, which were last updated in 2015, must be reviewed by several government and independent committees before being adopted.

Spokesman David Foster of the Canadian Home Builders Association said he’s been pleased with government efforts to work with industry on changes to building codes, land use policies and other issues regarding disaster preparation, adding the key to making effective changes is investing in proper research first.

 

Tennessee Wildfires Damage Estimated at $500M

On December 14, 2016 local officials in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, a tourism community nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, estimated the damage from the wildfires which bullied its way through the town on November 28, 2016, at $500 million dollars.

Larry Waters, the Mayor of Sevier County, who announced the estimate at a news conference, and also made a promise to do a full scale review of the emergency response and see what was done well and what can be done better.

With winds blasting close to 90 MPH, power lines fell like writhing serpents-causing other fires to ignite.

It was a scene out of a disaster movie as citizens fled on foot or by car as the persistent flames closed in.

 

Damaged or completely destroyed were more than 2,400 buildings, including 2,100 homes. Sixty businesses were also annihilated.

Photo by Lyle Guinn

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Fort McMurray wildfire recovery to spur $5.3 billion in spending, report says

The massive efforts to respond to and rebuild after the wildfire of Fort McMurray, Alta., will spur economic growth in the coming years but leave insurance companies and governments with a tab of more than $5 billion, says a new report.

The Conference Board of Canada said in a report released Tuesday, November 15, 2016 that the spending will add 0.4 per cent or $1.1 billion to Alberta’s GDP next year, followed by growth of 0.2 per cent and 0.1 per cent in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

The ramp-up in reconstruction, needed to rebuild the nearly 2,000 homes and businesses destroyed by the May fire, is also expected to create about 9,000 jobs next year and cut a 0.1 percentage point off the unemployment rate.

The report concluded that the economic boost from spending on the fire this year will be more than offset by lost oilsands production as companies were forced to shut down operations, shaving off 0.1 per cent or $456 million from Alberta’s GDP.

The Conference Board also warned that while the increased spending in the coming years will boost the GDP, it isn’t suggesting there will be any overall benefit to the disaster.

“The true cost of this tragedy is its effect on people’s lives – the loss of personal items and homes – and livelihoods,” it said.

“While rebuilding and replacing lost assets will generate economic activity, this doesn’t suggest that Canadians in general or Albertans in particular will be better off economically.”

The Conference Board said about $3.6 billion of the spending will be covered by insurance payouts, while governments will be on the hook for about $1.5 billion in firefighting, relief and rebuilding costs.

Another $200 million came from early payouts from the Alberta government, the Canadian Red Cross and oilsands companies to cover immediate household needs, bringing the total estimated cost of the fire by the end of 2019 to $5.3 billion.

The report says responsibility for covering costs of the fire are in stark contrast to the 2013 Alberta floods, where provincial and federal governments took a $3 billion loss compared with $1.8 billion for insurers because of a general lack of flood insurance.

The report also says that while governments will see a boost in personal income and sales taxes, corporate income tax over the next three years will overall be lower than what the Conference Board had forecasted before the fire because of foregone revenues from oil companies.

Besides forcing the evacuation of close to 90,000 residents from the Fort McMurray area, the fire also resulted in major oilsands operations losing 47 million barrels in production and $1.4 billion in potential revenue.

The Conference Board said this year’s shortfall in oil production means Alberta will see an overall $25 million loss in royalties and a $58 million reduction in corporate income tax between 2016 and 2019, while increased personal and indirect taxes will offset that for an overall $41 million increase in tax revenue.

 

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