Battling bushfires, combating cyclones and heavy hailstorms – these are but some of the challenges Australians faced throughout peak storm season early last year. To learn from the worst of 2015 – so you can be best prepared – we review the damages, the costs to both insurers and insured parties, and share some tips so you can be ready for this year’s storm season.
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2015: Australia takes a battering
Australia’s eastern states experienced Mother Nature’s fury in the early months of 2015, bombarded with a series of severe storms and natural disasters that wreaked havoc on Aussie properties and businesses. Some of the most severe took place between January and April.
January 2015 – Bushfires in South Australia
Bushfires ravaged the Adelaide Hills in South Australia in the early days of the year, with dire consequences. A number of homes were destroyed and over 13,000 hectares of land burnt to the ground.
According to the ABC, 27 homes were lost and 132 people required medical treatment. Despite some property owners losing their homes or business, including the Tea Tree Gully kennels and cattery that was completely gutted in the fire, many residents banded together throughout the difficulties.
While the damages were significant, totalling over $36.6 million dollars according to the Insurance Council of Australia across 996 separate insurance claims, this was only the beginning of 2015’s storm and natural disaster woes.
News report on the Adelaide Hills bushfire from January 6.
February 2015 – Tropical Cyclone Marcia hits Queensland
$522 million and more than 35,000 claims – that’s the extent of the damages left behind from Tropical Cyclone Marcia when it struck Queensland’s central coast on February 20, 2015. Luckily, the cyclone, which was originally predicted to be a category 5 storm, was later downgraded when it made landfall. However, this didn’t mean the damages were slight, as 350 homes were destroyed and a further 1,000 sustained structural damage.
This report from The Morning Bulletin tells of a family in Rockhampton who lost their home and all their belongings in a fire resulting from the cyclone. The government provided assistance of up to $900 for those who could not make insurance claims, and a further $4,200 to reconnect essential services.
Rockhampton and Yeppoon were the most seriously affected, with the number of homes struck reaching 697 and 234 respectively.
April 2015 – Hailstorms in New South Wales
New South Wales experienced a real battering back in April, with almost an entire week of extreme storm activity, and a heavy, damaging hailstorm on Anzac Day in the Sydney area.
The damages were extensive, with the New South Wales storms costing $922 million from April 20 – 24, and the Sydney hailstorm on Anzac day alone costing $413 million dollars. That brings the total cost of damages and losses from this week of wild weather in excess of $1.3 billion dollars.
Australian storms in the future
The University of New South Wales (UNSW) compiled some interesting statistics in a recent study around the future impacts that climate change will have on the intensity of Australian storms and the changes in weather behaviour over time that will as a result lead to the increased likelihood of damages to Australian homes.
Some key takeaways and points of interest
- According to the UNSW Water Research Centre “warming temperatures are dramatically disrupting rainfall patterns, even within storm events”, and consequently the risk of flooding in such instances increases significantly. It’s becoming more important than ever to be aware of such issues and prepare accordingly, especially if you’re situated in a low lying area or close to waterways that may overflow.
- Surprisingly, the patterns identified from the team indicated that this storm behaviour applied across the country, not just in the northern-most parts most commonly affected by cyclones and tropical storms.
- Flash flooding is predicted to impact more Australians in residential areas in the coming years.
5 easy ways to storm proof your property this season
The best way to combat summer storms is to plan ahead. While it’s difficult to predict if a storm will hit you this year, or the severity of a potential incident, it is both possible and useful to prepare early on. This way, you can minimise the likelihood of damages and keep your home, belongings and yourself out of harm’s way. There are a number of assets available online to help you create your own storm proofing checklist. One that we love is this interactive tool from Brisbane City Council.
- Keep your garden tidy – trim low hanging and overgrown branches that are sitting close to your property.
- Conduct a maintenance check – if your home has been exposed to storms in the last few years (or if it’s an older property) it may pay to hire a qualified tradesperson to come and evaluate your property and ensure everything is secure. Some great starting points are to check your roofing and gutters for any loose fixtures.
- Secure loose items – If high winds or storms are forecast, secure loose items outside the home or store them away. This includes outdoor furniture and children’s toys.
- Take out home and contents insurance – in the unlikely event that your home sustains significant damage as a result of storms, flooding or bushfire activity, appropriate home and contents insurance will be essential to mitigating financial loss. The same goes for car insurance, especially if you don’t have anywhere undercover to park.
- Register your pets – while your furry friends might appear to be secure in your yard on any normal day, in incidences of extreme weather activity gates can blow open, fencing detaches or frightened pets could find a way to escape looking for reprieve from the elements (should you not be home to bring them inside). Registering and microchipping your animals is highly recommended in the event that they should find themselves far from home.
- If you live in a bush fire area, have a plan in place should you, your family, or your property be at risk.
Preparation is paramount in order to protect yourself for this coming storm season, and those to follow. Over the next few years, we may yet experience even more extreme weather, so take the time now to ready your home and make the appropriate plans. That way, if you’re affected, the financial cost and losses will be minimised.