Windstorm Xaver Losses Could Reach $1.9B: AIR Worldwide

December 12, 2013

Catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide estimates that insured wind losses from Extratropical Cyclone Xaver will range between $966 million and $1.9 billion (EUR 700 million and EUR 1.4 billion), with the majority of the losses in Denmark, Germany and the U.K.

AIR’s loss estimates reflect insured physical damage from wind to onshore property (residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, auto), both structures and their contents, as well as losses to insured forestry in Norway and Sweden.

The loss estimates do not include:

Xaver came ashore in Scotland on Dec. 5 with wind speeds comparable to those of a Category 1 hurricane. It then headed south and moved across the North Sea to the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany.

The U.K. experienced the brunt of the storm, and strong winds disrupted power to nearly 100,000 homes in Scotland and more than 6,500 in Northern Ireland. The storm surge caused a difference of two meters in water height between the front and back of the Thames Barrier, and the barrier was closed for two days, preventing the surge from reaching London.

In Germany, Hamburg closed down all 38 of its flood gates on Dec. 6, and several streets in the harbor area along the Elbe River were submerged under six meters of water.

“Xaver brought with it a potent combination of hurricane-force gusts, torrential rains and storm surge, which caused significant travel disruption, power outages and property damage across parts of the U.K., Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, southern Sweden and Norway,” said Dr. Gerhard Zuba, senior principal scientist at AIR Worldwide.

“Xaver is the second severe storm of the 2013-2014 European winter storm season. The first, late October’s Christian, also caused significant damage over a large part of Europe.

“By comparison, the 2012-2013 season was relatively quiet, while the season before that saw a series of storms impacting Europe. This sort of clustering is typical for the region, where seasons with very low activity and corresponding damage can be followed by seasons with very high activity and correspondingly high accumulations of insured losses,” Dr. Zuba observed.

Structural damage from Xaver is expected to be limited, and reported damage has typically been to the outer building envelope, including roofs, windows and cladding.

However, while the size of individual claims is expected to be relatively low, the overall volume of claims is expected to be significant due to the size of the affected area. Flood and coastal storm surge losses will likely be significant.