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Weekend timing helps mitigate losses caused by Winter Storm Jonas

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While initial estimates for insured losses caused by Winter Storm Jonas when it battered the Eastern Seaboard last week ran into the hundreds of millions of dollars, the storm's ultimate impact will likely be mitigated by its weekend timing and the rapid melting of the snow as temperatures soared above freezing for several days after the storm.

Jonas caused at least 29 fatalities when it swept across the eastern U.S. Jan. 21-24, dumping record snowfalls in New York, Washington, Baltimore and Newark, New Jersey, according to a Jan. 25 report from Aon Benfield Group Ltd.

The Aon Benfield report stressed that while it was early in the process to nail down loss figures, it “anticipated” Jonas would be the year's first billion-dollar weather event.

Aon Benfield associate director and meteorologist Steve Bowen said Thursday he was “confident” insured losses would run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide said on Jan. 25 Jonas hit 20 states in the eastern U.S. with record-breaking snow totals, hurricane-force wind gusts and storm surges, forcing flight cancellations at major airports and causing power outages, roof collapses, and severe flooding in several states.

“The accumulation of heavy, wet snow has caused roof buckling in several states; large or long-span roofs that are flat or have a low pitch are particularly vulnerable. Roof collapses were reported in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, York County and other areas of Pennsylvania, as well as Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, Kentucky and elsewhere,” AIR said in a statement.

Moody's Analytics Inc. on Jan. 25 even termed the economic impact from the storm “small” at $2.5 billion to $3 billion, with the largest losses coming in the retail trade and leisure/hospitality sectors, where sales are not likely to be made up.