Major weather and flood events in the U.S. during January will cost the insurance industry more than $1 billion as tornadoes hit a 17-year high, according a report published by Impact Forecasting, Aon Benfield’s catastrophe model development team.

The most prolific event occurred during the second half of the month after nearly 80 confirmed tornadoes touched down in the Southeast, said the Aon Benfield report titled “Global Catastrophe Recap – January 2017.”

The hardest-hit states were Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida as thousands of homes, businesses and other structures were damaged or destroyed, the report said, noting that states of emergency were declared in Mississippi and Georgia.

The U.S. National Weather Service preliminarily confirmed that at least 130 tornadoes touched down in the U.S. during the month – the highest number of January tornadoes since 1999, when 212 tornadoes touched down, the report added.

Total combined economic losses from the two events in the Southeast (January 1-3 and 18-23) were expected to exceed US$1.0 billion, while the insured portion will minimally be in the hundreds of millions, Impact Forecasting affirmed.

Also during the month, consecutive winter storms brought extreme precipitation across the U.S. West, where the most significant damage was recorded in California due to flash flooding, mudslides and debris flows. Total economic losses from the early January event were expected to approach US$700 million, while public and private insurance losses were listed around US$300 million, the report said.

Steve Bowen, Impact Forecasting director and meteorologist, said: “January proved to be a highly active month for global natural hazards compared to recent years, especially when we look at the events in the U.S., where the powerful thunderstorms and winter storms had a devastating effect on people and communities, as well as causing a significant economic loss for [the] country.”

During the month, severe weather events in the U.S. killed 27 people.

The Impact Forecasting report detailed additional natural catastrophe events that occurred across the global during January, which include:

  • The worst wildfires in Chile’s modern history killed at least 11 people, damaged or destroyed an estimated 2,500 structures and vehicles, and more than 420,000 hectares (1.1 million acres) of land nationwide. Preliminary damage and firefighting costs were listed at CLP570 billion (US$890 million).
  • Exceptional rainfall in southern Thailand killed at least 96 people, and inundated as many as 585,000 homes and other structures. Total economic losses were estimated to reach or exceed THB30 billion (US$860 million).
  • Severe flooding was also registered in Malaysia, where more than 25,000 people were evacuated in Terengganu and Kelantan states after widespread damage was noted. The government cited combined economic losses at MYR585 million (US$132 million).
  • Other major flood events occurred in Peru, South Africa, Angola, China, Philippines, and French Polynesia.
  • A stretch of bitterly cold Arctic air engulfed much of Europe during the first half of the month, killing at least 76 people.
  • Windstorm Egon caused an estimated insurable damage of more than US$170 million across the UK, France and Germany.
  • Severe winter storm events were recorded in the United States and Canada.
  • A series of moderate earthquakes hit central Italy on Jan. 18, resulting in damage and avalanches that led to at least 30 casualties.

The full Impact Forecasting January 2017 Global Catastrophe Recap report, can be viewed on the Aon website.

Source: Impact Forecasting/Aon