n July 31, 1987, high humidity and warm temperatures combined dangerously with a shifting mass of cold air in the skies above Edmonton. Within minutes, a tornado - one of nature's most terrifying sights - was unleashed upon the unsuspecting city. Its impact was swift, fatal, and devastating.
In its wake, 27 lives were lost and more than 63,000 insurance claims were filed. Claims in excess of $250 million were settled industry-wide, one of the largest natural disaster pay-outs in Canadian history.
"It was astonishing," remembered a Wawanesa employee. The Edmonton branch quickly sprang into action. It set up a trailer at the heavily damaged Evergreen Mobile Home Park, in order to facilitate the handling of claims. Wawanesa staff logged 8,000 hours of overtime between July 31 and December 24, 1987. The company brought adjusters from the Calgary branch, as well as from the Alberta service offices of Lloydminster, Red Deer, and Grande Prairie to assist with claims.
Surprisingly, Canada's greatest insured disaster was not a tornado, fire, hailstorm or explosion. It was an ice storm. The storm struck eastern Ontario and southern and western Quebec in January of 1998. This event caused well over $1.4 billion in property damage. Wawanesa processed over 14,000 claims totaling more than $12,000,000.
Claims flooded in. Three months after the event, an average of 22 to 30 claims was still being filed daily. Auto claims with Wawanesa reached 3,901 by December 31, 1987, a loss of $5,096,587. At the same time, there were 2,706 property claims, totaling $11,750,923. The grateful comments of policyholders, impressed with the speed and thoroughness of the company's response, gave recognition to Wawanesa's tradition of integrity and service.