Fort McMurray spring flood caused $522 million in damage, insurance bureau says

Fort McMurray’s spring flood caused more than $520 million in insured damages, according to new numbers from the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

Alberta sees big year-over-year increases in natural disaster claims

A grocery store is surrounded by water on Franklin Avenue in Fort McMurray during the April flood. (Greg Halinda/The Canadian Press)

Fort McMurray's spring flood caused more than $520 million in insured damage, according to new numbers from the Insurance Bureau of Canada. 

That flood damage was followed by $1.2 billion in damage from a hailstorm in Calgary, Airdrie and Rocky View County, flooding in Edmonton in July and another storm in Calgary on July 24.

Altogether the total 2020 insurance payouts for Alberta disasters has so far been more than $2 billion. 

"The good news is that no one event, or one or two events, will cause insurance premiums to increase," said Celyeste Power, western vice-president for the bureau. 

"But it is hard to look at a summer like this … without noting that Alberta is a very expensive place to do business."

Power said the bureau is working with all levels of government to create a national plan to ensure that affordable flood coverage is available for everyone. 

"Especially at the rate things are going with flooding events in Alberta and across the country, it's becoming not easy to find flood insurance for your residential property. And if you can find it, it's not typically affordable."

She said that's why the bureau is working on a partnership with government. 

In Fort McMurray, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo has been reassessing its flood plan, and many residents have said they're unable to get  insurance for their properties. 

Matthew Hough, deputy chief administrative officer for the municipality,  said in an email that recovery costs for natural disasters have been increasing, and the provincial and federal governments have indicated they won't provide as much financial help in the future. 

"That means that the municipality and property owners will have to cover more of the costs," Hough said. 

"The 2020 flood has made us reconsider our approach — we want to be more resilient in the future." 

Power said she applauds the municipality for making efforts to protect the town from future floods. 

"I think everyone can say that they've been through enough," said Power. "I think the more resiliency that we can build in that community and across the province, the better."

The payouts and frequency of natural disasters in Alberta has been steadily increasing for years, she said. 

In 2006, insurers paid out $197 million; in 2016, that figure was $5.3 billion. From January to June 2020, insurers have paid out over $2 billion. 

"We're seeing quite a jump in how much it costs per year," Powers said.

The municipality will bring new recommendations for a flood mitigation plan to council in September.