1. Texas Freeze
Feb 11-20: A series of winter weather penetrated across the entire state of Texas. For several unrelenting days, the state was well below freezing including Houston, Texas recording temperatures as low as 13°F on February 16th. Most damage from the storm was caused by frozen pipes and building practices that put water heaters and pipes in the attics of homes. Overall, this event was the most costly US Winterstorm on record – exceeding $14B.
Auto prices skyrocketed, rental cars were nowhere to be found, lumber prices spiked and then leveled off. In 2020, we saw a greater magnitude of loss development than typical and have continued to see event totals increase throughout 2021. In 2021, we were well aware of inflation as events unfolded, but quantifying the impact on losses has been difficult. Consumer inflation is not closely tied to repair and labor costs that most immediately impact insurers after an event. Notably a copper pipe manufacturer was damaged in the Texas Freeze event hampering the production of the very materials needed to recover from the event.
3. Changing Seasons
The definition of normal Atlantic hurricane activity is based on a recent 30-year period that is updated at the start of each new decade. At the start of the 2021 season, NOAA released the latest climatology which increased the number of named storms and hurricanes to expect each year to 14 and 7 respectively. The number of major hurricanes remained at 3. 2021 exceeded those new expectations in an extremely active year for the Atlantic Basin where 21 tropical storms were named, 7 of which became hurricane strength.
4. Czech Tornado
The rare severe convective storms of June, with thunderstorms, hailstorms, and tornadoes caused extensive property damage across Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and Switzerland. The damaging tornado in Hrušky, Czech Republic was the strongest in the country’s history and left most of the town severely damaged.
5. Germany Floods
By far the largest event in Europe was the July 2021 flooding, affecting Central and Western Europe. Stalling low-pressure system, Bernd, caused heavy rainfall and led to widespread flash flooding mainly affecting Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Unlike the European major flood events of 2002 and 2013 which were characterized by slow-moving flood waves downstream along major riverbanks.
Major Hurricane Ida made landfall near Port Fourchon, Louisiana on August 29th as a powerful category 4 storm with winds peaking at 150 MPH. The storm tracked near New Orleans as it headed inland to the northwest before making a turn to the northeast as it prepared for its second act, causing devastating flooding particularly in New York and New Jersey. The Hours Clauses were put to the test as the event unfolded over the course of 4 days from August 29th – September 1st. Further complications arose when the Louisiana DOI called for insurers to provide extra contractual coverages – adding to loss uncertainty for this and future events.
7. Dixie Fire
The second largest fire in California history, at 963,000 acres, Dixie Fire, ignited July 13th and burned for over 3 months. The cause is now known to be due to an electrical equipment failure. This was just one of at least 10 events to exceed 1B in insured loss in 2021. The fire burned for weeks before it made a wind driven run that breached containment lines and destroyed most of the town of Greenville, CA. This underscored the critical role that wind plays in wildfire loss.
8. BC Floods
A so called "Atmospheric River" dumped an enormous amount of rain over British Columbia and Washington State in mid-November. The result of which included flooding, mudslides, and widespread power outages. Many elements of critical infrastructure throughout the region were compromised and didn’t stand up to the forces of nature which compounded an already dire situation.
9. December Storm Activity
December 2021 was the warmest December on record. With that unseasonably warm weather came an unstable atmosphere giving rise to two severe storm outbreaks. These two storm systems, just days apart, affected most of the Midwest, Southern, and Eastern US. Though December severe weather has happened in the past, storms are typically weak in nature and only 2% of severe storm losses stem from the month. In this case damaging F3 and F4 tornados hit Kentucky particularly hard causing billions of dollars of damage. Experiencing two severe storm events causing over $1B each in December will certainly raise questions of our understanding of seasonality in this changing world.
10. Marshall Fire
As we thought the year was coming to a close, alerts came out of Boulder, Colorado that a fire, thought to have originated from a small structure fire soon took off during an extreme down sloping wind event packing gusts over 100 mph. The region was in extreme drought conditions and had nearly no winter precipitation to date, which surely would have helped hamper the fire spread. In all, the fire destroyed nearly 1,000 homes and some large retail properties. In a turn of seasons, the fire was largely brought under control before being put out with the help of a snowstorm that came through the following day