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Claims From October Snowstorm Piling Up
By Chad Hemenway, PropertyCasualty360.com

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The snow from a freak pre-Halloween snowstorm in the Northeast may have melted, but hundreds of thousands of residents remain without power, and damages in some areas rival those caused by Hurricane Irene.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy tells reporters he spoke to Insurance Commissioner Thomas Leonardi and the two think insurance losses will surpass $3 million in the state.

The nor’easter on Oct. 29 caused the largest number of power outages in the state’s history, Malloy says.

Verisk Analytics’ Property Claims Service has declared the storm as a catastrophe—meaning insured losses have exceed $25 million—in six states: Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Other areas are to be determined, PCS says.

Claims from winter storms typically come in slow since damage is normally seen after snow and ice melts, and after the lights come back on.

At one point about 4 million homes and businesses were without power as a result of the storm and electricity at some affected homes and business may be out until the end of the week. For this reason, PCS says it does not have a loss estimate available.

"Numerous claims will not be reported right away since a significant number of homeowners and businesses have other pressing matters to address," PCS says in an email. "In addition, claim adjusters may not be able to access some areas until obstacles are removed and utility wires are safely repaired."

State Farm says it has received 4,000 total claims.

New Jersey Manufactures Insurance Co., the largest personal-auto company and the fourth-largest homeowners insurance provider in New Jersey, has received 2,750 homeowners claims and 850 auto claims, says spokesman Patrick Breslin.

Rebecca Hirsch, spokeswoman for USAA, says the insurer has taken more than 2,500 claims related to the storm.

“Two of our biggest claims reports include damage due to heavy snow—such as fallen limbs—and food spoilage due to the power outages,” she says in an email.

Sandra Parrillo, president and chief executive officer of Providence Mutual Insurance Co., says the storm would be just a regular event for the insurer if this year hadn’t been so catastrophe-heavy.

“We write in seven states and we think that’s pretty good for geographic diversification, but it seems like our states keep getting hit,” Parrillo says. “It’s been a tough year but we’re handling it.”

The regional insurer, with about $62 million in total premium, has received under 300 claims—many for food spoilage, says Parrillo.

Connecticut Light and Power says this storm damaged tramsmission lines worse than Hurricane Irene. The state's transportation department says tree damage is five-times worse than Irene, reports catastrophe modeler Risk Management Services.

Officials at Central Park in New York City say more than 1,000 trees were lost, RMS adds.

The storm, which dumped more than 2 feet of wet, heavy snow in some areas, prompted governors in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts to declare states of emergency.

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