Heavy snow and bitter cold in much of the country have caused more than $1.5 billion worth of insurance losses, making this winter among the costliest in decades for the industry, according to a report Tuesday.
There have been more than 175,000 claims paid to policyholders for damages such as collapsed roofs, burst pipes, downed tree limbs and auto accidents from Jan. 1 through Friday, the Insurance Information Institute said.
Many businesses also have been affected by closures and supply chain interruptions.
The report, which used claims data from Verisk Analytics, is another sign of the economic damage caused by this winter’s severe weather. Economists have said the cold and storms are partly to blame for lackluster job growth in December and January.
“While most winter storm losses occur in northern and mountainous regions of the United States, this spate of severe cold has also affected millions of home and business owners in the south, many of whom were unprepared for such extreme conditions,” said economist Robert Hartwig, the institute’s president.
The claims paid so far, which include only two of the four major winter storms to hit the U.S. this year, put 2014 sixth on the list of costliest winters since 1980, the group said.
When damages from the other storms are added in, this winter should vault into the top five.
The costliest winter was 1993, which included a blizzard known as “the storm of the century” and caused $3.2 billion in inflation-adjusted losses.
Hartwig said the industry will have no problem handling the losses as companies entered 2014 with record levels of capital to pay claims.
Severe winter weather caused 7.1% of all insured catastrophe losses from 1993 to 2012, making it the third-most costly type of natural disaster. Hurricanes and tropical storms rank first with 40% and tornadoes are second with 36%.
[For the Record, 1 p.m. PST Feb. 26: A previous version of this post said inflation-adjusted, winter-related insurance losses in 1993 were $3.2 million. They were $3.2 billion.]