Issued at 16:00 on 31 March 2016
Storm Katie, which hit southern areas of the UK on Easter Sunday and into Bank Holiday Monday, was unquestionably another significant weather event. Wind gusts peaked at 106mph – recorded over the Needles on the Isle of Wight – flights into Gatwick and Heathrow were either diverted or cancelled and at one point over 200,000 homes were without power.
Our 24-hour emergency HelpLine service received extraordinarily high levels of customer calls on Bank Holiday Monday, and yet claims arising from this event have actually been quite low, in volumes as well as reserves. So how did Storm Katie, this winter’s eleventh named storm, differ from all the others, and what did we learn?
HelpLine – the Katie effect
We were carefully tracking Katie’s progress over Easter and when the storm suddenly changed its path, we were prepared. We called in additional support staff to manage the expected increase in demand for our 24-hour emergency HelpLine. But when incoming customer calls reached 2365, we were challenged to meet our target response rate.
This was the highest number of calls HelpLine has received, on any given day, since February 2014. To put this into perspective, immediately following Storm Desmond, HelpLine call volumes peaked at 1601 and this was a much bigger and widespread event.
We’ve learned from this that when a storm hits the south of the country, there’s definitely a greater customer uptake of our 24-hour emergency HelpLine service. This difference in geographic demand is something we’re already factoring into our surge resource planning for the future.
We saw a 500% increase in incoming claims, compared to business as usual, over the Easter weekend. Of the claims received 99% are for storm damage and only 1% flood. There were very few large or commercial losses.
The total incoming flood and storm claims following Katie are only around a third of those received after Desmond, when flood claims represented 46% of the losses. Most of this additional storm work is straightforward and will be swiftly processed and settled, wherever possible, within a matter of weeks.
The ABC of this winter’s storms
Abigail arrived on 12 November bringing high winds, rain, lightning and showers across the north and northwest of Scotland. Barney followed on 17 November, affecting Derbyshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire and Wales, and then Clodagh on the 29 November, did it’s worst across the Republic of Ireland, northern England and Scotland.
By the time Desmond arrived on 5 December, so much of the UK had been saturated by persistent heavy rain, flooding was inevitable in many areas. Cumbria came off worst – Honister Pass recorded 341.4mm of rainfall in 24hours, which is a new UK record.
Eva caused Christmas Eve misery to many, bringing more heavy rain to the north of England, followed by Frank on 28 December, which hit western parts of the UK and caused further flooding. Frank was the second largest storm, behind Desmond, in terms of claims volumes, although a much lower proportion of these were for flood.
After a month of respite, Gertrude came through on 29 January, followed by Henry on 1 February, both of which mostly affected the north of the UK. On 8 February, Imogen was liveliest in south Wales and southern England, and then on 2 March, Jake saved its’ strongest gusts for residents in Ireland. And then came Katie, causing Easter havoc, but low levels of property damage.
It’s been 20 weeks since the first named storm of the winter and we’re now over halfway through the alphabet – bearing in mind there aren’t any names for QUXY & Z. As we head into April, the weather continues to be unsettled, but so far, there’s no indication that there’s a storm Lawrence looming.
We will continue with our progress updates on claims arising from this winter’s storms, but as the general situation is now well in hand, weekly bulletins are probably not necessary. Unless there’s another weather event to report on, we’ll now reduce our client bulletins to twice monthly. If you would like more information at any point, please contact your Cunningham Lindsey Client Director.