Storms Sabine and Victoria occurred only six days apart in February 2020, affecting the British Isles, and Western and Central Europe

Initial insurance losses emanating from extratropical cyclones Sabine (Ciara, Elsa) and Victoria (Dennis) are expected to reach €1.84 billion, based on claims data collected from affected insurance companies, according to Zurich-based catastrophe loss data firm PERILS AG.

The storms occurred only six days apart in February 2020, affecting the British Isles, and Western and Central Europe.

For storm Sabine, the majority of insurance losses were reported in Germany, followed by the Benelux countries, France, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Austria and Denmark. The storm was particularly noteworthy given the exceptionally wide area impacted by the damaging wind gusts which extended across the British Isles and Continental Europe.

In addition, the duration of the storm was unusual with windstorm conditions persisting for over 48 hours in many countries. In total, it is estimated that approximately 250 million people were exposed to wind gusts in excess of 80 km/h at some point during the progression of the storm.

The loss to the insurance industry from Sabine represents the largest loss from a European windstorm since Friederike (David) in January 2018. Despite having been hit by very strong winds, the Republic of Ireland suffered comparably minor insurance losses, as was the case for Norway and Sweden. In total, extratropical cyclone Sabine resulted in the deaths of 14 people across Europe.

While the level of the market event loss resulting from Sabine is material, it is not unusual. Based on the last 40 years of European windstorm loss history, such a level can be expected to be reached or exceeded approximately once every three years.

Extratropical cyclone Victoria (called Dennis in the UK) made landfall just six days later on 15-17 February. The majority of claims occurred in the UK, Germany and Belgium, with Victoria bringing heavy rainfall causing a renewed period of flooding, particularly in Wales and England. However, losses classified as flood by insurance companies are not included in the Victoria loss survey.

Extratropical cyclone Victoria (Dennis) was the thirteenth named storm of a very active 2019–20 European windstorm season. In conjunction with the high level of storm activity, a strong jet stream developed in early November and persisted over the North Atlantic for much of the period.