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Calgary Hailstorm That Caused $1.3-Billion in Damage Prompts New Insurance Program

HailSmart aims to mitigate losses amid push for Alberta to mandate impact-resistant roofing

April 23, 2021
4 mins
A wind damaged home with missing shingles and debris on the lawn

Nearly one year after a massive Calgary hailstorm caused a historic $1.3-billion in insurable damage, the insurance industry is joining the push for better protection.

Roof damage was by far the most expensive consequence of the June 2020 disaster, accounting for roughly $800-million of the losses. The Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR), a non-profit think tank affiliated with Western University, is responding with a new program called HailSmart.

The goal is to mitigate losses from hail damage amid a broader effort to convince Alberta homebuilders and homeowners to adopt impact-resistant roofing materials.

“What really precipitated this was the huge hailstorm in Calgary last June, which had $1.3 billion in insured losses – making it by far the largest hailstorm in Canadian history,” ICLR managing director Glenn McGillivray told Thompson’s World Insurance News last week.

“But over the last several years, there have been some really big hailstorms, mostly in southern Alberta.”

Part of the reason hailstorms are getting more expensive in Calgary is that the city has expanded so much in recent decades, and there is now much more property (and people) that a single hailstorm can damage. The region had a population of just over one million in the year 2000 and now stands at almost 1.6 million, which Mr. McGillivray said means more property is sitting in the middle of a hail zone.

Data from modelling firm CatIQ from 2008 to last year shows there have been almost 900,000 hail-related insurance claims over that time worth more than $8.2-billion.

Mr. McGillivray said a lot could be done to protect property against hail damage, including parking vehicles under shelter and improving building materials for homes.

An excellent first step would be to change the building code in Alberta to make roofs more resilient to hail damage, he said.

There has been increased scrutiny over the quality of roofing materials used on Calgary-area homes ever since the latest storm. Last month, the city began preparing a grant program that will provide up to $2,000 for homeowners to purchase more resilient roofing products.

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“We are in hailstorm alley,” George Chahal, councillor for Ward 5 in Northeast Calgary, told his colleagues on Council in March 2021. “We will get hit, unfortunately, by another storm. And we have to be better prepared.”

“The one thing we can do to ensure that these huge insurance losses do not continue to occur is to have a better, more resilient roofing product,” Mr. Chahal said.

On that point, the ILCR’s Mr. McGillivray, completely agrees.

“It would be great if we could get impact-resistant roofing products in the building code in Alberta,” he told Thompson’s. “That would make a huge difference.”

- With files from Thompson’s World Insurance News. Used with permission.

Jameson Berkow

Jameson Berkow is an experienced financial reporter, editor, and broadcaster who has held senior roles with the Financial Post, BNN Bloomberg, and The Globe and Mail. He previously worked as the managing editor at RATESDOTCA.

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