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Record wild weather claims start 'ominous' storm season: NRMA

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NRMA Insurance has received the highest number of severe weather home claims for any spring and is urging Australians to prepare for more frequent hailstorms trending further south in the warmer months.

The IAG-owned brand received 9889 total spring severe weather home claims, a record for September-November and 35% above the seasonal average, according to the insurer’s quarterly Wild Weather Tracker publication.

There were 4555 NRMA Insurance hail claims as almost half of all lodgments in NSW, Queensland and the ACT were caused by that peril after battering supercell storms in October.

NRMA Insurance also received 77 claims as a result of earthquakes that shook the eastern seaboard in September.

“It has been an ominous start to storm season,” Executive Manager Natural Perils Mark Leplastrier said.

“Spring featured some of the most unpredictable and extreme weather we have seen in many years, and with a La Nina system now declared, we could be in for more wet weather over summer.”

Two-thirds of all NRMA Insurance spring 2021 home claims in NSW, Queensland and the ACT were caused by wild weather, up from just over half typically. Coffs Harbour was the NSW region hardest hit by severe weather, while the Gold Coast was most impacted in Queensland and Canberra’s CBD recorded the most claims in the ACT.

In NSW, which experienced its coolest and wettest November on record, NRMA Insurance received a record 8583 spring severe weather home claims and 15,702 car claims, as floods, earthquakes, tornadoes and record rain and hail hit the state.

The Coffs coast and Grafton made up 31% of the claims, with Toormina the most affected suburb in NSW. Hail caused most of the state’s damage, with 4339 home hail claims and a further 6864 motor hail claims.

NRMA Insurance Meteorologist Bruce Buckley expects a damp and stormy summer for much of the east, with a wetter than normal summer for the eastern states and a higher chance of widespread rain and flooding over the next few months before conditions return to more average conditions by early autumn.

In Queensland, the risk of floods should continue throughout summer with a more active than normal tropical cyclone season also expected, possibly bringing rain far inland as well as down the state’s coast.

In NSW, rain and flood risks are expected to remain above average during summer and East Coast Low risk is higher than normal due to warmer than average ocean temperatures near the NSW coast, threatening severe thunderstorms producing flash flooding and an increased risk of damaging hailstorms across the north-east of NSW.

An NRMA Insurance poll found three-quarters of those surveyed recognised climate change was behind the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters and 82% thought more needed to be done.

Mr Leplastrier says one of the impacts of a warmer climate is that severe hailstorms may become more frequent and trend further south over the warmer months in spring and summer and Australians should start thinking about how they can protect their homes from thunderstorms and fast-moving hail events.

“We could start to see large areas such as the inland region from the Hunter River, down through the central and southern NSW highlands, and into central and eastern Victoria experience more frequent hailstorms,” he said.