15 August 2021 | See disclaimer

Just how much damage do storms do each year? And how worried are Australians about their property being damaged? We’ve collected all the latest industry data, and run our own survey research on storm damage to homes in Australia.

Quick stats

  • In the last 5 calendar years, over AU$20 billion has been lost to storms and flooding
  • A 10cm hailstone can fall at over 140km/h
  • Less than 30% of surveyed Australians aged 18-44 have an action plan ready if their home is threatened by a storm
  • Almost 50% of Australians surveyed either don’t have home or contents insurance, or they aren’t sure of what their insurance actually covers regarding storm damage.

Storms are a natural part of Australian life. We know when summer rolls around, the threat of hail, cyclones and strong winds increase significantly.

But just how many Australians experience damage to their homes from storms each year? And how much do storms actually cost Australians? We’ve dug through the science of storms, and conducted our own research to bring you:

  1. Key storm risks in Australia
  2. Australian storm statistics & facts
  3. Australian storm survey results
  4. How to reduce your risks of storm damage.

1.0. Key storm risks in Australia

There are 4 common ways storms can threaten Australian properties:

Heavy rain and wind

While ’storms’ can feature a range of threats (such as flash-flooding or hail), the damage classified as ‘storm damage’ is usually due to rainfall, heavy winds, and lightning strikes. This damage can even be caused by belongings in your backyard (such as trampolines, sporting equipment or furniture) that have been propelled through the air, striking either your property or neighbouring homes.

Flooding

‘Flood’ is defined as the covering of normally dry land by water that has escaped or been released from the normal confines of a lake, river, creek, or other natural watercourse (whether or not any of them have been altered or modified), or from a reservoir, canal or dam. Flooding can either be triggered by intense rainfall in a single storm (often referred to as ‘flash flooding’), or could be from prolonged rain over several days/weeks.

Tornadoes

Despite common misconceptions, Australia has more than its fair share of tornadoes every year. The BoM[3] reports that dozens are sighted every year in Australia, with plenty more believed to go unspotted in rural/unpopulated areas. While they usually only feature in larger weather events (like bushfires or supercell storms), their high wind speeds still present severe damage and danger.

Cyclones

The northern regions of Australia would be rather familiar with the dangers of cyclones – with a typical 4-5 cyclones[1] making landfall with Australia each year. According to the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM)[2], the classification of ‘cyclone’ is given to a low-pressure storm when wind speeds of 34 knots or greater circle the eye of the storm, and it persists for at least 6 hours.

2.0. Australian storm statistics & facts

Australian losses from storm catastrophes – 2016-2020

The Insurance Council of Australia’s[4] historical catastrophe data shows the amount lost (in Australian dollars, normalised to 2017) to storm catastrophes from 2016 to 2020.

Highest daily rainfall locations in Australia 2011-2020

Year Location Daily rainfall (mm)

2011

Mornington Island, Qld

477.2

2012

Mount Jukes, Qld

388.0

2013

Numinbah, Qld

653.0

2014

Mount Bellender Ker, Qld

584.4

2015

Mount Bellender Ker, Qld

433.7

2016

Mount Bellender Ker, Qld

507.6

2017

Mount Jukes, Qld

635.0

2018

Halifax, Qld

678.0

2019

Mossman, Qld

562.0

2020

Dum In Mirrie Island, NT

562.0

For 9 straight years, the highest daily rainfall in a single day was measured in a Queensland town (according to the BoM[5]). However, 2020 broke the trend, with Dum In Mirrie Island claiming the annual record for the greatest daily rainfall.

Temperatures of each state in 2020

State Maximum temperature recorded Mean temperature (compared to average)

Qld

48.7oC (in Birdsville)

+1.4 oC above average (5th warmest year on record)

NSW

48.9oC (in Penrith Lakes)

+0.9 oC above average

Vic

46.2oC (in Kyabram)

+0.5 oC above average

SA

48.0oC (in Andamooka)

+0.7 oC above average

WA

48.2oC (in Eyre)

+1.5 oC above average (2nd warmest year on record)

Tas

41.4oC (in Hobart Airport)

+0.3 oC above average

NT

46.0oC (in Jervois)

+1.3 oC above average

ACT

44.0oC (in Canberra Airport)

NA

In 2020, every state/territory recorded mean temperatures above their own average. This shows that as time goes, average temperatures are increasing.

There is growing consensus within the scientific community that higher temperatures leads to a greater number of severe weather events, such as cyclones, storms and hail[6].

3.0 Australian storm survey results

3.1 Which weather events have damaged your home and/or contents in the last 5 years?*

Type of home
State
Age
Gender
  General storms (like heavy winds, lightning, or heavy rain) Hail Floods Cyclones Tornadoes None of the above

House

32.8%

14.3%

10.1%

1.9%

0.9%

57.4%

Townhouse/ duplex

31.1%

12.6%

16.8%

6.7%

0.8%

58.0%

Unit/apartment

19.7%

6.4%

5.8%

1.7%

3.5%

73.4%

Grand Total

30.0%

12.8%

10.1%

2.5%

1.5%

60.5%

  General storms (like heavy winds, lightning, or heavy rain) Hail Floods Cyclones Tornadoes None of the above

NSW

34.4%

12.3%

16.5%

1.5%

1.8%

55.4%

Vic

29.0%

13.1%

6.2%

1.9%

1.2%

63.3%

Qld

27.1%

16.4%

8.9%

5.6%

1.9%

61.2%

WA

35.4%

10.1%

6.3%

1.3%

1.3%

60.8%

SA

21.1%

5.6%

4.2%

2.8%

1.4%

70.4%

Tas

33.3%

4.2%

12.5%

0.0%

0.0%

58.3%

Aus

30.0%

12.8%

10.1%

2.5%

1.5%

60.5%

  General storms (like heavy winds, lightning, or heavy rain) Hail Floods Cyclones Tornadoes None of the above

18-24

31.4%

18.1%

18.1%

5.7%

3.8%

55.2%

25-34

32.6%

13.5%

13.0%

2.6%

2.6%

56.0%

35-44

33.3%

13.7%

12.8%

3.7%

1.4%

54.8%

45-54

32.9%

14.1%

10.6%

0.6%

1.2%

57.6%

55-64

25.5%

10.5%

2.6%

2.6%

0.0%

68.6%

65+

22.5%

8.1%

4.4%

0.6%

0.6%

72.5%

Total

30.0%

12.8%

10.1%

2.5%

1.5%

60.5%

  General storms (like heavy winds, lightning, or heavy rain) Hail Floods Cyclones Tornadoes None of the above

Female

28.6%

11.0%

8.2%

2.2%

1.4%

63.4%

Male

31.5%

14.7%

12.1%

2.9%

1.6%

57.5%

Total

30.0%

12.8%

10.1%

2.5%

1.5%

60.5%

*Users were able to select multiple weather events, meaning values may not add up to 100%.

Australians surveyed who live in houses seem the most likely to experience damage from general storms – such as those with heavy winds, lightning, or heavy rain. Hail also damages a greater proportion of houses than it does any other type of dwelling.

Townhouses and duplexes seem to take more damage from flooding than other types of properties. Units and apartments then seem to be the least damaged by the weather in general.

3.2 Does your household currently have an action plan in case of a severe storm or other natural disasters?

Type of home
State
Age
Gender

Queenslanders and Tasmanians seem the most prepared for storm season, with around 41% of each state indicating their household has an action plan in place.

Apartment-dwellers also tend to prepare less for storms and emergencies, with only 26% indicating they have a plan in place. This rose to over 33% of Australians who live in houses.

Younger Australians were also less likely to have a plan in place, with under 30% of those aged 18-44 indicating they were ready for a severe storm or natural disaster.

3.3 How often do you clear the gutters of debris?

Type of home
State
Age
Gender
  At least once a quarter At least once a year At lease once every few years Never N/A (I don't have gutters)

House

17.0%

40.6%

19.9%

18.8%

3.8%

Townhouse/ duplex

11.8%

40.3%

16.0%

22.7%

9.2%

Unit/ apartment

11.6%

17.3%

8.7%

26.6%

35.8%

Grand Total

15.2%

36.2%

17.4%

20.7%

10.5%

  At least once a quarter At least once a year At lease once every few years Never N/A (I don't have gutters)

NSW

18.6%

35.3%

12.6%

21.9%

11.7%

Vic

13.1%

37.8%

22.8%

16.6%

9.7%

Qld

13.1%

31.8%

16.4%

27.6%

11.2%

WA

8.9%

46.8%

17.7%

20.3%

6.3%

SA

23.9%

38.0%

16.9%

14.1%

7.0%

Tas

8.3%

50.0%

16.7%

20.8%

4.2%

Aus

15.2%

36.2%

17.4%

20.7%

10.5%

  At least once a quarter At least once a year At lease once every few years Never N/A (I don't have gutters)

18-24

13.3%

28.6%

18.1%

30.5%

9.5%

25-34

11.9%

31.6%

19.7%

23.8%

13.0%

35-44

16.0%

32.4%

21.9%

21.0%

8.7%

45-54

14.7%

35.9%

17.6%

19.4%

12.4%

55-64

20.3%

39.2%

14.4%

15.7%

10.5%

65+

15.0%

49.4%

10.6%

16.3%

8.8%

Total

15.2%

36.2%

17.4%

20.7%

10.5%

  At least once a quarter At least once a year At lease once every few years Never N/A (I don't have gutters)

Female

14.3%

35.0%

18.8%

19.8%

12.1%

Male

16.2%

37.4%

16.0%

21.7%

8.8%

Total

15.2%

36.2%

17.4%

20.7%

10.5%

To little surprise, surveyed Australians who live in apartments or units are less likely to have gutters. But for apartment-dwellers that do have gutters, they are more likely to clean them out quarterly than most Australians who live in townhouses or houses. House-dwellers tended to be slightly more proactive when it comes to cleaning gutters than those in townhouses, indicating better storm preparedness.

Across the board, over 20% of Australians that have gutters never clean them. This is one of the main catalysts for storm damage to homes and properties, meaning a significant portion of Australians are leaving themselves at risk.

Remember that if you are going to clear gutters, make sure you do it safely. You can have someone hold the ladder, or even get a paid professional to assist.

3.4 If your home became uninhabitable due to a storm, what is the maximum time you could stay with friends or family?

Type of home
State
Age
Gender
  A week A month 3 months 6 months A year Longer than a year N/A

House

18.0%

23.8%

13.0%

9.6%

5.1%

15.7%

14.9%

Townhouse/ duplex

17.6%

23.5%

13.4%

7.6%

4.2%

17.6%

16.0%

Unit/ apartment

17.3%

22.5%

9.2%

4.6%

7.5%

16.2%

22.5%

Grand Total

17.6%

23.3%

12.3%

8.4%

5.5%

16.3%

16.6%

  A week A month 3 months 6 months A year Longer than a year N/A

NSW

15.3%

24.3%

9.6%

7.5%

8.4%

16.5%

18.6%

Vic

21.2%

22.8%

13.1%

7.3%

4.2%

15.4%

15.8%

Qld

15.9%

22.9%

15.9%

7.0%

4.2%

17.3%

16.8%

WA

20.3%

25.3%

8.9%

11.4%

3.8%

15.2%

15.2%

SA

15.5%

22.5%

15.5%

12.7%

2.8%

19.7%

11.3%

Tas

16.7%

20.8%

20.8%

12.5%

0.0%

8.3%

20.8%

Aus

17.6%

23.3%

12.3%

8.4%

5.5%

16.3%

16.6%

  A week A month 3 months 6 months A year Longer than a year N/A

18-24

13.3%

21.9%

15.2%

9.5%

8.6%

14.3%

17.1%

25-34

13.5%

21.2%

15.0%

8.8%

8.3%

22.3%

10.9%

35-44

22.4%

24.2%

15.5%

7.8%

2.7%

16.4%

11.0%

45-54

21.8%

23.5%

8.8%

11.8%

4.7%

11.8%

17.6%

55-64

15.7%

25.5%

8.5%

5.2%

7.2%

15.7%

22.2%

65+

16.3%

23.1%

10.0%

7.5%

3.1%

15.6%

24.4%

Total

17.6%

23.3%

12.3%

8.4%

5.5%

16.3%

16.6%

  A week A month 3 months 6 months A year Longer than a year N/A

Female

19.0%

21.9%

11.4%

8.8%

5.5%

14.7%

18.8%

Male

16.2%

24.7%

13.3%

8.0%

5.5%

18.0%

14.3%

Total

17.6%

23.3%

12.3%

8.4%

5.5%

16.3%

16.6%

Australian seniors sampled seem to have the highest rates of not feeling like they could live with friends or family in the event their home becomes inhabitable due to storm damage. Almost 1 in 4 participants over 65 indicated they didn’t have an alternative, and around 40% suggested that the maximum time they could stay with someone is a month.

South Australians seem to have the best access to temporary accommodation with family, with almost 20% suggesting they could live with family and friends for over a year, if need be.

3.5 Which of the following areas of cover do you have in your Home Insurance policy in the event your home became uninhabitable?*

Type of home
State
Age
Gender
  Total contents cover Total rebuild costs Temporary accommodation Partial rebuild costs Not sure I don't have insurance

House

45.2%

42.8%

22.5%

9.0%

30.0%

12.5%

Townhouse/ duplex

26.9%

26.1%

18.5%

6.7%

30.3%

24.4%

Unit/ apartment

22.0%

11.6%

15.0%

5.2%

20.8%

46.2%

Grand Total

38.4%

34.9%

20.4%

8.1%

28.6%

20.0%

  Total contents cover Total rebuild costs Temporary accommodation Partial rebuild costs Not sure I don't have insurance

NSW

32.0%

31.4%

20.4%

8.7%

26.3%

24.6%

Vic

39.8%

37.1%

19.7%

9.3%

29.0%

18.5%

Qld

38.8%

32.7%

15.9%

6.5%

32.2%

17.8%

WA

44.3%

36.7%

22.8%

7.6%

30.4%

17.7%

SA

52.1%

45.1%

31.0%

5.6%

23.9%

14.1%

Tas

45.8%

41.7%

25.0%

8.3%

29.2%

16.7%

Aus

38.4%

34.9%

20.4%

8.1%

28.6%

20.0%

  Total contents cover Total rebuild costs Temporary accommodation Partial rebuild costs Not sure I don't have insurance

18-24

21.9%

17.1%

10.5%

5.7%

38.1%

26.7%

25-34

28.5%

22.8%

16.1%

10.9%

30.1%

24.9%

35-44

33.8%

32.9%

17.4%

10.5%

31.1%

20.1%

45-54

43.5%

37.1%

26.5%

8.2%

23.5%

18.8%

55-64

47.7%

43.1%

21.6%

4.6%

28.8%

15.7%

65+

53.1%

53.8%

28.8%

6.3%

22.5%

15.0%

Total

38.4%

34.9%

20.4%

8.1%

28.6%

20.0%

  Total contents cover Total rebuild costs Temporary accommodation Partial rebuild costs Not sure I don't have insurance

Female

35.4%

30.9%

17.2%

5.7%

31.3%

21.9%

Male

41.5%

39.1%

23.7%

10.6%

25.8%

18.0%

Total

38.4%

34.9%

20.4%

8.1%

28.6%

20.0%

*Users were able to select multiple answers, meaning values may not add up to 100%.

House-dwellers in our study have the highest rates of having insurance, with only 12.5% indicating they didn’t have any level of coverage. This differed wildly from unit or apartment dwellers, where over 46% said they didn’t have insurance.

Younger Australians were the most likely to be uninsured, with a very linear trend showing as Australians get older, their odds of having insurance on their home or contents increases proportionally.

New South Wales also had the highest rate of being uninsured – being almost a quarter of residents. Over 50% of New South Wales respondents either didn’t know what their coverage was, or had no insurance at all.

3.6 If a neighbour’s trampoline was to damage your property during a storm, who do you believe would be liable?

Type of home
State
Age
Gender

The most interesting finding is that Australians are reasonably unsure of where fault lies if a trampoline is moved by a storm, and damages a neighbour’s property. Circumstances will vary, but generally speaking, a trampoline being shifted is an unforeseeable event, meaning that the person who owns the trampoline won’t be liable.

However, over 52% of Australians feel the fault should lie with who owns the trampoline. This rose to almost 60% of Australians aged over 65.

3.7 If a neighbour’s tree was to fall and damage your property during a storm, who do you believe would be liable?

Type of home
State
Age
Gender

Participants in our study have very similar perceptions of a tree falling as a trampoline being shifted in the wind. However, the critical point to consider is whether the owner of the tree has properly maintained it, and minimised the risk of damage being caused.

If the owner of the tree has neglected branches or roots that could foreseeably cause damage during a storm, they would generally be liable for the damage. So in that sense, over 50% of our survey participants were correct. However, the key finding again is the lack of certainty Australians have around who is at fault in storm-related insurance claims.

4.0 How to reduce your risks of losses from storm damage

Clean gutters

It sounds simple, but this is one of the best ways to minimise damage to your home from storms and rainwater. Blocked gutters can send rainwater where it doesn’t belong, seeping into your ground, roof, ceiling, walls, and plenty of other unideal places.

A few minutes here and there can save you a world of trouble during storm season.

Check your roof regularly, and fix any damage

It’s your job to make sure there are no gaps or damage that could let water in. So as a regular routine, it’s worth checking the roof is all in working order. You can even start by going through the roof cavity (above the manhole) and checking if you can see any sunlight.

If you do spot some damage (whether it’s a gap, rust or discolouration), make sure you take the right steps to repair it. No matter what kind of damage you’re looking at, the sooner you deal with it, the better.

Get weather warnings

The Bureau of Meteorology issue weather warnings before potentially serious storms strike. If you know what’s coming, you can ensure no loose objects are lying around the yard, your windows are shut, and the chances of damage from a storm are minimised.



Disclaimer: This survey was conducted by Pure Profile on behalf of Budget Direct in July 2021. The survey was conducted online with a total sample size of 1000, weighted and representative of all Australian adults (aged 18+). All other data on this website is the latest available from the named sources in this references above, and was obtained in August 2021. While certain northern areas of Australia are mentioned for their storm statistics, Budget Direct does not insure properties above the Tropic of Capricorn, nor are cyclones insured. Auto & General Services Pty Ltd does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the data and accepts no liability whatsoever arising from or connected in any way to the use or reliance upon this data.

References

[1] CSIRO. 2020. Tropical cyclones.

[2] Bureau of Meteorology. 2021. What is a Tropical Cyclone?

[3] Bureau of Meteorology. 2021. Tornadoes.

[4] Insurance Council of Australia. 2021. Data hub.

[5] Bureau of Meteorology. 2021. Daily Extremes.

[6] NASA. 2020. How Climate Change May Be Impacting Storms Over Earth’s Tropical Oceans.