Natural Catastrophe hits Rockhampton hard

The year 2020 will be a hard one to forget. Not only did we endure a global pandemic, but our country was also victim to a spate of natural catastrophes that rocked Australia to its core.

After healing from the bushfires, the eastern coast of Australia was hammered with small to mid-size hailstorms classed as ‘secondary perils’ (in the world of reinsurance when a storm is not as significant as a cyclone it falls into a ‘secondary peril’ category). Whilst these secondary perils aren’t as big, they still pack a punch.

One such secondary peril was the Rockhampton Hailstorm which hit the east coast on 19 April 2020. Whilst Rockhampton residents aren’t strangers to wild storms, this particular event left a trail of significant and widespread damage to commercial and residential properties.

Social media was inundated with videos and photos of hailstones as big as 10cm in diameter. The frequency of hail events with hailstones greater than 9cm has increased over the decades. Up until the 2000s, only 1% of hailstorm events were recorded at 9cms or greater. From 2010 to 2019, this had increased to 3% of events.

However, it’s not just the size of hailstones that are increasing.

Unsurprisingly the frequency of hailstorms has also been on the rise. Hailstorms now make up 12% of all declared natural catastrophes in the last decade in Australia, compared to 4% from 1981 to 1990.

The size of hailstones that smashed through parts of Rockhampton.

Hailstorm Stats

Not only was the town of Rockhampton caught off guard by the hailstorm, but also the insurance industry. Some interesting statistics include:

  • Solar panels:
    • The extensive use of solar panels in the region has likely contributed to the increase in average claims size. Assessment, repair and replacement of damaged solar panels is complicated with very little governance in the industry on best practice.
  • Property age, roof repairs & building codes:
    • 61% of homes in Rockhampton were built pre 1980
    • The age of properties led to challenging roof repairs requiring tie-downs and roof frame upgrades
    • 92% of roofs in Rockhampton were metal sheeting, which usually requires whole sheet/roof replacements.
    • Tiled roofs by comparison are more straight forward requiring specific tile replacement
    • Cyclone building codes by the LQD building Construction Committee, require total roof replacement if damage to roof is greater than 20%
  • Claims farming/Disaster chasers:
    • A significant number of consultants were reported in the area, soliciting for work with reports of misrepresentations to consumers. The impact of these activities was seen in the higher portion of late claim notifications that kept occurring months after the date of loss.

Whilst the event caught the industry off guard, the most important thing was to ensure the industry was there to help the communities get on with the rebuild of the Rockhampton area. The focus shifted to what lessons from the event in order to be better placed and prepared for the next one.

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