Autumn has made its arrival known, due to wild weather hitting the coastal areas of New South Wales and Queensland late last month.

There was significant damage to households and businesses, with the Insurance Council of Australia predicting the number who will be making use of their business interruption cover polices to be high.

The “storm of the century”

Sydney experienced torrential rainfall and high wind gusts of up to 130km/h, with many describing the events of late April as a “once-in-a-century” metrological event, according to the Sydney Morning Herald on April 25.

Sydneysiders were encouraged to avoid travelling if possible, effectively shutting down Australia’s largest city while people looked to protect their families and property from storm damage.

In the area from Newtown to Mt Druitt, hailstones measuring between 1-2cm were reported to have fallen, causing significant damage to buildings on an industrial estate. The storm also forced the closure of the Sydney Harbour port. As a result, there were reports of large swells along Sydney Heads, affecting cruise ships in the harbour.

In Sydney, the Hunter and the Central Coast, the number of homes and businesses that experienced a power outage was predicted to be as high as 200,000. Ausgrid warned repairs could take a number of days.

NSW Minister for Emergency Services David Elliott said the violent storm was responsible for enormous damage to people’s property and local infrastructure.

“It is clear that these communities are enduring significant hardship and this assistance will provide individuals, families and communities with a much needed helping hand,” Mr Elliot said.

Storm declared an insurance catastrophe

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) declared the insured damage caused by the storms in New South Wales and Queensland “a catastrophe”.

As of May 4, insurance companies have received about than 7,500 claims with initial losses estimated at $26 million, according to the ICA. This event is the fifth catastrophe declared by the ICA this year alone.

“East coast low-pressure systems can cause widespread damage, just like the system that caused havoc in NSW less than three weeks ago. This latest low has affected widespread areas of south-east Queensland and northern NSW,” said ICA CEO Rob Whelan.

He encouraged insurance policy holders to start cleaning up despite the common misconception you had to wait for an assessment.

“Householders are allowed to remove and discard any water or mud-damaged goods that pose a health risk, such as saturated carpets and soft furnishings. They should take pictures of all damage, and keep samples of materials and fabrics to show the assessor.”

The ICA expected the number of insurance claims to rise in the coming weeks as people affected by the storm looked to get their businesses up and running again.