March Came and Went Like a Lion for Global Insurers

March turned out to be a very costly month globally, as late winter weather caused billions of dollars in economic losses worldwide.

U.S. insurers were hit with about $150 million in losses from one storm system alone, says Aon Benfield.

In its March 2013 Global Catastrophe Recap, the reinsurance intermediary says an active weather pattern between March 18 and March 20 brought severe thunderstorms and heavy snowfall across the Eastern U.S.—spawning tornadoes, softball-sized hail, damaging winds and heavy snowfall. The storm system produced a derecho—an intense squall line—across the Southeast, causing widespread damage.

Aon Benfield put the insurance loss from the storm at around $150 million and economic loss in excess of $250 million.

Mississippi took the brunt of the storm system with 50,000 insurance claims, Aon Benfield reports. The state’s insurance department issued a report earlier this week saying it expects the claim figure to eventually reach 60,000. Damaged automobiles accounted for most of the claims, as insurers paid out more than $25 million in the Magnolia State, according to the insurance department.

Winter weather across Central and Eastern U.S. in early March caused nearly 4,000 flight cancellations and more than 260,000 power outages. Economic losses were roughly $50 million, and the storms accounted for five deaths.

The month finished out with a winter storm extending from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast between March 23 and March 25. Heavy snow totals in some states approached 20 inches and caused travel delays and power outages. Claim and economic losses are yet unknown, Aon Benfield says.

On the Other Side of the Atlantic

Europe took the brunt of March winter storms, producing more than 150,000 insurance claims and $1.8 billion in economic losses.

The region suffered through an extended period of heavy snowfall, sub-freezing temperatures, high winds, ice and flooding. The hardest hit areas were northern France, Germany and Ukraine, where snow accumulations topped 20 inches. France suffered total economic losses of an estimated $914 million, with more than 100,000 auto claims totaling $131 million in insured losses. At least 30 fatalities were weather related.

Steve Jakubowski, president of Impact Forecasting, Aon Benfield’s catastrophe modeler, says despite the extended winter weather events for the first quarter of this year, the volume of losses did not overwhelm the insurance industry.

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