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Central Newfoundland homes rocked by windstorm

Strong winds knocked this heavy log cabin, near Lumsden, off its shores Nov. 15. Wind gusts throughout the central Newfoundland region peaked in Twillingate at 143 kilometres per hour.
Strong winds knocked this heavy log cabin, near Lumsden, off its shores Nov. 15. Wind gusts throughout the central Newfoundland region peaked in Twillingate at 143 kilometres per hour. - Contributed

Insurance payouts in the province triple in the last 20 years

CENTRAL, N.L. — Ken Howell has never experienced anything like it.

The Twillingate resident went to bed on the evening on Nov. 15 and woke up the next morning with his 10 by 20-foot two-story shed ripped from its shores. It had collapsed and been pushed against the side of his house, resting on the bridge’s overhanging roof and siding.

Winds had peaked at more than 140 kilometres per hour in Twillingate, and offshore waves reached 15 metres high.

Howell’s shed is a complete write-off and his house is in need of repair.

“It’s very, very unsettling, I haven’t had a lot of sleep,” he said in the aftermath of the storm. “Now it has to be torn down and hauled away.

“I hope no one else ever has to experience anything like this.”

— Ken Howell

But Howell wasn’t alone, 152 kilometres east, near Lumsden, Denise Goodyear was left trying to salvage her cabin.

“As soon as the cabin came in sight we knew there was trouble,” she said. “Walking down the path to the cabin my heart sunk and the tears started to flow. The cabin had come off of the shores and had fallen to the ground on one side.”

While there wasn’t any structural damage, the heavy log cabin had moved three to four feet.

“The front bridge was a total mess but it looked like everything else was in good order. There are 12 windows and three doors and thankfully not a glass was broken. The only thing inside was the wood stove had slide off its blocks and the stove pipe had broken.”

The next day – Nov. 16 – while not in its original location, the cabin was jacked up, and re-secured.

Goodyear said they are trying to keep the cabin from moving again, but, “it’s hard to predict what Mother Nature is capable of.”

Payout averages triple

For Hedley Elms, general manager of BELFOR Gander, the weather didn’t present anything out of the ordinary.

“We didn’t see any big influx of claims, it was regular business for us,” said Elms, who handles insurance claims from Clarenville to Labrador City.

“We probably had 20 claims come through,” he said, adding, much of the reported damage revolved around downed trees, missing shingles and damaged siding.

“That’s probably three or four days work for us,” he said. “When you see a big tractor-trailer parked in front of our building you know there’s a lot on the go because it’s our disaster relief truck, which is equipped to handle 500-800 claims.”

The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) said insurance claims from the recent wind storm are still coming in. As a result, Atlantic vice-president Amanda Dean said it’s still too early to tell how much damage the storm caused.

However, she said, weather-related claims in Newfoundland and Labrador are becoming more common, as insurance claim payouts have more than tripled in the last 20 years.

According to the IBC, from 1997-2001, insurers paid out, on average, $31 million per year in personal property claims in the province.

From 2012-2016, the average annual payout has been $98-million.

“It’s a pretty big jump in weather-related claims. A lot of those claims are related to water.”

— Amanda Dean, IBC vice-president Atlantic

This would include sewer backups, hurricanes, damaged roofs, and debris breaking windows during high winds.

With payouts increasing, Dean said it can lead to higher premiums, but insurers want to remain affordable.

“Some companies will experience greater losses than others, so some companies will have to adjust more so than other companies,” she said. “Insurers inherently want to keep their customers and want to be competitive, so they are trying everything possible to keep premiums low.”

This, Dean said, would include offering recommendations on how to better protect a property, such as removing debris from property, sloping grading so that runoff moves away from a foundation, and knowing when to re-shingle a roof.

“Insurers certainly have seen it all when it comes to home insurance claims, so we really encourage homeowners to have the conversation with their insurers, their broker or agent, just to see what tips and suggestions they might have,” she said. “Only homeowners know what they have… and some of the risk around their property. Talking with a representative can enlighten them on how they can best protect themselves.”

IBC has a toll-free consumer information line for general information on preventative measures – 1-844-227-5422 ext. 228

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