Cyclone Jasper “a fizzer” says Queensland broker

So why was media coverage so dramatic?

Cyclone Jasper “a fizzer” says Queensland broker

Catastrophe & Flood

By Daniel Wood

“It's a fizzer and I have to say that the media attention given to Jasper is absolutely appalling,” said Karen Hardy (pictured above).

Insurance Business asked the managing director of Redicova Cyclone Risk Insurance about the impact of Tropical Cyclone Jasper. IB assumed that this cyclone would be wreaking havoc on Hardy and her customers in Far North Queensland.

Afterall, many media outlets have spent days reporting on the Cyclone’s progress in dramatic terms.

In 2011, Yasi, one of the biggest storm in Queensland's history, caused tens of millions of dollars of damage and the evacuation of many thousands of people.

“There’s a lot of a lot of misinformation out there and it scares people,” said Hardy. “I have never seen such scare mongering in my entire life!”

She said this storm “was always going to be a Cat 2 or Cat 3.”

Emergency rescues, flooding and power outages

Jasper has caused some flooding and about 12 rescues were reported, most around Daintree north of Cairns. News reports also said about 40,000 people around Far North Queensland were left without power.

“But the rhetoric that we have seen in the media over the last couple of weeks!” said Hardy. “It started with ‘Brisbane in the firing line’ and then talk of a Cat 5 - it just got worse and worse.”

“Negligible” impact on farmers

She said the impact on the agricultural sector in Far North Queensland was “negligible.”

Hardy said she heard a farmer on ABC Radio on Thursday morning sounding “very happy” and “with little damage.” She said the farmer reported 70 mm of rain and winds of 45 kilometres per hour (Km/h).

The Weather Network says winds of that strength can “break umbrellas and move large tree branches.”

She said in her part of Queensland Jasper caused rain and “just gale force winds,” usually between 70 Km/h and 120 Km/h.

“But it's just a tropical storm!” said Hardy. “Most of us would sleep through a Cat 1 and for a Cat 2 you don't even bother moving the patio furniture!”

Parametric offering not triggered by Jasper

Her parametric insurance offering wasn’t triggered because Jasper did not land as a Cat 3.

However, she did receive phone calls about Jasper from some concerned locals. Hardy suggested that they were likely people who had recently moved to Far North Queensland with little or no experience of cyclones.

“It was more from your new arrivals and probably uninsured people really,” she said. “We copped a lot of phone calls from them.”

Hardy said a few these callers inquired about taking out her parametric insurance offering.

“‘You sure can,’” She said. “But it will exclude cyclone Jasper.’”

Hardy explained that her coverage policy has an “imminent event exclusion.” Once a tropical low is forming a policy can still be purchased but it excludes that particular event if it turns into a cyclone.

She also said nat cat insurance offerings require the policy holder to be proactive and not just inquire about coverage when a cyclone is actually named.

“That's like betting on the Melbourne Cup after the race has started, isn't it?” She said.

Hardy said these callers all decided not to buy the parametric covers.

Cyclone emergency response system needs tweaks

The managing director of Redicova was also critical of the government’s response to the cyclone.

“The emergency disaster response has been appalling as well,” she said. “They trialled the new emergency alert system and that caused a lot of havoc because people were getting texts saying, ‘Evacuate now.’”

Hardy said these texts were being received by people living 200 kilometres from the cyclone.

She said ABC Radio reports suggested that the authorities were aware of the emergency system’s failings and the need for it be better adapted to providing accurate information.

“It was a slow-moving system to be fair, but it was a Category 1, possibly a Category 2,” she said. “It was not a big deal and it was never going to be a big deal.”

Most farmers were not concerned about Jasper

Hardy suggested that most people in the agriculture sector were well aware that Jasper wasn’t a threat.

“People involved in agriculture, in general, are really well informed these days and a lot of them are very weather savvy,” she said.

Hardy said farmers are often monitoring many weather websites and looking at long and short term forecasts.

“Quite frankly, if I figured that out, then they definitely would,” she said.

BoM’s guide to cyclone categories

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has a useful guide to tropical cyclone categories, severity and impact here.

How do you see the challenges faced by the media and government when it comes to informing people about cyclones and other environmental threats? Please tell us below

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