Severe weather conditions the new norm

Photo: Rising Sun Chatsworth

The last couple of years have been marked with an increasing frequency of extreme weather events. Consumers and insurers are left counting the toll of weather related catastrophes.

According to ClimateWise, a coalition of global insurers, brokers and industry service providers:

• Weather-related catastrophes such as floods, windstorms and droughts have increased six hundred percent since the 1950s.

• Such natural disasters have cost the world economy $170bn in 2016 alone. Five times more than the 1980s and taking a huge leap up from the $103billion in losses recorded in 2015.

• Closer to home flood events in 2016 raked up losses of R700 million in insured losses, while the recent Knysna fires and Cape Town storms in June clocked in at over R4 billion in damages.

Lees: Suidkus storm – Pa sukkel vir ure om by kleuter te kom

Alarmingly, the gap between the cost of weather catastrophes and the insured values is growing.

Mandy Barrett of insurance brokerage and risk advisors, Aon South Africa, says the damage and havoc wrought across the country over the last few months and years highlights just how vulnerable we are to the changing weather patterns and climate change.

The downpours happen in a matter of minutes with incredible intensity, with some areas reporting golf-ball size hailstones, proving that extreme weather catastrophes happen with very little warning, and there is just no telling as to how severe they will be.

“General consensus from meteorologists are that climate change is having a massive impact on property losses.

“South Africa should brace for a new normal of abnormally heavy rain and hail storms, powerful winds and drought conditions in many regions,” says Mandy.

Monday’s hail storm is almost a month earlier than the storm that ripped through the Gillooly’s Interchange in Bedfrodview on 10 November 2016, which claimed lives and caused massive damages to property and vehicles.

Watch: Chaos in KZN

“With much of October and November still ahead of us – traditionally the months that have tallied the most severe weather events and financial losses – there is a need for extra precautions.

“The severity of the flooding and damage we are seeing is alarming, and while there is little that you can do to prevent a flood, there are some important tips that can help protect your personal safety and assets in such freak weather conditions,” explains Mandy.

Aon provides the following advice:

On the road:
• Take special note of weather warnings and if possible, avoid being on the road or out and about during such times.
• If you can, rather avoid driving in heavy downpours. Treacherous potholes could be hiding in the guise of a puddle. Never attempt to drive through a flooded area of the road – even a few centimetres of water is powerful enough to sweep a car away.
• If caught in a flash flood on the road, get yourself to safety as quickly as possible – if you can, get out of the vehicle and get to high ground. Don’t close all the windows as the water will cause a vacuum and trap you in the car.
• Many car accident claims are due to slippery roads and potholes. Tyre damage is not an uncommon occurrence, and is normally not covered by a motor insurance policy unless another part of the vehicle is damaged at the same time.
• Check your tyre tread and replace worn tyres – an accident claim could potentially be repudiated if the tread is deemed insufficient to have stopped the vehicle in time. The legally required minimum tread depth is 1.6mm.
• Increase your following distance and reduce your speed to allow enough time to react.
• Watch out for potholes as they are filled with water in rainy conditions. Heavy rainfalls can also cause potholes to appear where there weren’t any previously.
• Watch for motorists swerving to avoid objects in the road and be prepared to do the same.
• Many traffic lights are out of order during heavy rain, so drive carefully.
• Roads are congested with many tempers fraying, keep your cool.

 

Tips for home:
• Your homeowner’s insurance policy will cover any damage to the structure of the building as a direct result of freak rainstorms, but will not cover maintenance-related damage. This means that while your insurance will respond by repairing the damage caused by a leaking roof, it will not cover the repair of the roof’s waterproofing if it deteriorated due to lack of maintenance.
• If you’re faced with flooding of your property, try to move as many of your belongings as you can out of the water – the longer the water is left sitting, the more damage it causes. Try and clear away as much of the water as you possibly can to prevent further and permanent damage.
• Half a meter of paving along the perimeter of a building can help with damp problems.
• Keep gutters clear of debris to facilitate proper drainage around the house. Protect inlet/outlet pipes of any drains and storm water drainage against blockage from debris.
• Check the waterproofing and flashings on the roof on a regular basis.
• Install lightning rods along the outside of the house if your area is prone to lightning strikes and fit plugs with surge protection.

 

  AUTHOR
Middelburg Observer

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