Insurers strike back

40,000 lightning-related claims filed each year in Canada
Heath Korvola

There are few sights more spectacular than a lightning strike—unless you happen to be an insurance company. With some 40,000 lightning-related claims filed each year in Canada, totalling between $500 million and $1 billion, adjusters often find themselves trying to recreate events that literally happened in the blink of an eye.

Now help has finally arrived. A new database maintained by the Weather Network includes strike data collected since 2007 by a network of 71 sensors located across Canada and the northern United States. While firefighters and utility companies already rely on the real-time data for monitoring purposes, Bruce Caven, the Weather Network’s vice-president, says there was a need for an archival service so past strikes could be verified by insurance companies and other businesses. “They want to go back and reaffirm where the strike was struck, so to speak,” he says.

It’s not a perfect system. Information about strike locations is only considered accurate to within 250 m 18 times out of 20. But that is likely enough to help adjusters determine whether a claim is truly an act of God, or the work of an unscrupulous property owner trying to cash in on his policy.