The Ice Storm of 1998 hit the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Québec and portions of the northeastern United States from January 4 through January 10, 1998. Unusually long in duration and large in geographical extent, this storm triggered extensive power outages across the impacted region and is widely acknowledged to be Canada‘s costliest natural disaster.
Due to the collapse of power lines and supporting structures from ice accumulation, over 4.7 million people in Canada and another 500,000 in the United States lost power during the storm. The Canadian utility company Hydro-Québec was particularly hard hit, with over 1,850 miles (3,000 km) of power network impacted by the storm. Nearly 800,000 insurance claims were filed in Canada with another 140,000 in the United States, causing a total insured loss at the time of US$1.3 billion across both countries. The event also triggered a class action lawsuit against a group of Canadian insurers for additional living expenses (ALE) due to evacuation as a result of power outages.
Ten years following the 1998 event, this report chronicles the unique meteorological features of the storm and the potential insurance impacts of a repeat of the event in 2008, in the context of the current RMS understanding of winter storm risk throughout North America. RMS estimates that if the Ice Storm of 1998 were to recur in 2008, given the modifications in insurance industry practices, local disaster management, and improving the resilience of the electrical supply system, the insured loss would result in payments between US$1.0 and US$3.0 billion.