In the latest edition of its monthly Global Catastrophe Recap report, Aon plc has said the winter weather conditions-Polar Vortex- impacting the most of the United States from February 12-20, is expected to trigger a total direct economic cost in damages and net-loss business interruption beyond $10 billion. 

The storms resulted in power outages for millions, transportation disruptions, extensive property damage (particularly in the Southern Plains due to burst pipes) and impacts to the agricultural sector.

Meanwhile, a magnitude-7.1 (USGS) earthquake struck off the coast of Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture on February 13, killing one person and injuring 187 others. As many as 4,700 residential structures were damaged or destroyed. Total economic losses were expected to reach into the hundreds of millions (USD). The General Insurance Association of Japan (GIAJ) noted that nearly 88,000 insurance claims had already been filed.

Tropical Cyclone Niran caused notable wind- and flood-related impacts across the coastal areas of Queensland and New South Wales on the eastern coast of Australia from February 25 through March 4. Thousands of homes, in addition to other private and public infrastructure, were damaged. Economic losses due to crop damage alone was listed at AUD200 million ($155 million).

Steve Bowen, director and meteorologist on the Impact Forecasting team at Aon, said: “The unprecedented volume of winter weather impacts tied to the Polar Vortex across the United States in mid-February will result in a prolonged period of loss development, but will certainly end as the costliest insurance industry event for the peril on record. Despite being the coldest February for the contiguous U.S. in a generation, it marked only the 19th coldest February dating to the late 1800s. As the climate changes, such prolonged bouts of cold temperatures are likely to be less frequent, but the intensity of extreme cold events will grow more volatile. The impacts in Texas highlight the importance of infrastructure modernization and improved building code practices to better prepare for more unusual weather behavior in the future.”