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Alberta leads Canada in extreme weather loss claims

Marty Jespersen shows a wheat stock damaged by hail on his grain farm near Taber, Alberta August 7, 2012.

Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

It seems Mother Nature has a thing for Alberta when it comes to severe weather.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada says 62 per cent of all insurance losses from natural catastrophes in the country last year were there.

The trend is hitting the industry and policy holders right in the wallet.

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The bureau says Alberta's 2012 claims totalled more than $730-million for damage caused by heavy rains, hail and wind, including from major storms that ravaged Calgary, Edmonton and the province's south.

The cost has prompted some insurance companies to double the deductible for weather-related claims to as much as $3,000, Heather Mack, an insurance bureau spokeswoman, said on Wednesday.

"If they are not, they are at least considering it, because it has just been staggering losses," said Mack, who noted the average deductible in Alberta 20 years ago was $200. "Nobody is making money off of property insurance in Alberta. They are all losing money."

The province also had record hail damage to crops last year, with payouts from Crown corporations of more than $451-million to farmers.

The insurance bureau said severe weather that used to happen once every 40 years is now coming once every six years, with more homes and vehicles damaged.

Ms. Mack said Alberta usually has more such events than other parts of the country, but never as many as last year.

Part of the problem is that a lot more people are living in the province than a few years ago, she said, so there is more property that can be damaged.

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Ms. Mack suggested that if the trend continues, the industry will have to look at how to make homes more weather-proof, perhaps by seeking changes to building codes that would require tougher materials.

For now, the bureau is warning consumers to check their home and vehicle insurance policies to ensure they have adequate coverage for wind, hail, water and sewer backup damage.

The industry considers any weather event that causes more than $25-million in damages a catastrophe.

Don Forgeron, the insurance bureau's CEO, is to speak to Calgary's business community later this month about Alberta's wonky weather and the challenges it poses.

"It is a big concern to the industry," Ms. Mack said.

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