NU Online News Service, Dec. 21, 2:04 p.m.EST

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The early December cold snap in Washington state was among oneof the most severe that state has suffered in the past 25 years interms of insurance losses, according to Seattle-based insurerPEMCO.

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PEMCO said early data from its PEMCO Storm Index suggests lastweek's cold snap will be among Washington State's top-six severecold-weather events of the past 25 years, based on PEMCO claims ofaround $4.3 million projected to be paid.

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The frigid temperatures that gripped the state from Dec. 7-13prompted a rash of claims the insurer said should rank this eventbehind only five previous cold-weather events: snowstorms of Dec.26-30, 1996 ($15.2 million); Dec. 18, 1990 ($7.5 million); Dec.17-Jan. 10, 2009 ($7.1 million); Feb. 1-10, 1985 ($6.7 million);and Feb. 1, 1989 ($4.7 million).

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Last week's freeze also could break into Washington's top-10weather events of any kind, which includes major windstorms, theinsurer added.

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As of Dec. 15, PEMCO Insurance said it received 244 claimsrelated to the cold weather, mostly for frozen and burst waterpipes.

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The insurer said cold-weather claims are continuing to tricklein but are expected to return to near normal by the end of theweek. However, some claims might not be reported for weeks, withpeople on vacation and owners of second homes being unaware ofdamage until they return. Also, boats might have suffered freezingdamage that won't be detected until spring.

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PEMCO said it is the largest property and casualty insurerheadquartered in Washington and insures only Washington residents.According to HighlineData, a subsidiary of Summit Business Media,which also owns National Underwriter, PEMCO is ranked the7th largest insurer in the state for all lines ofbusiness.

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PEMCO said its storm index has tracked data since 1984 forclaims related to snow, cold and windstorms, plus events likeearthquakes, wildfires and heavy rain. It ranks these events basedon the number of claims and gross paid loss amount, which isrecalculated into inflation-adjusted dollars. Data for stormsbefore 1984 is less comprehensive, the company noted.

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