September 30th, 2009

Impact and Implications of Swiss Hailstorms in July 2009: Event Summary

Posted at 11:59 AM ET

Significant damage was reported across northern and central Switzerland following the hailstorms on July 23. Wind gusts of more than 100 kmph and heavy rainfall were mixed with hailstones the size of golf balls. Although reports said the storms only lasted for 30 minutes in some parts, they still caused extensive damage in six cantons (Aargau, Bern, Fribourg, Lucerne, St. Gallen and Vaud). Severe disruption to road and rail traffic was also reported and insurance officials said the hailstorms were the most costly to hit Switzerland in 50 years.

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Swiss Cantons Affected by July Hailstorms


The hailstorms caused considerable damage to property and vehicles across Switzerland, and officials said the worst affected cantons were Bern, Fribourg, Lucerne and Vaud. There were widespread reports of damage to roof tiles, windows, shutters and blinds across all four cantons while thousands of vehicles were also hit. In Bern alone, officials said 15,000 buildings were damaged. Flooding was also reported in Bern, inundating several cellars in the canton.

Fribourg was also badly hit by the hailstorms, with widespread property and motor damage reported, particularly in areas north of Gibloux. Towns and villages in Fribourg lost power for several hours and more than 400 firefighters were deployed to help residents clear their flooded cellars. Officials estimated as many as 10,000 homes were damaged in Fribourg. Elsewhere, thousands of buildings were reportedly damaged in Lucerne and Vaud.

The hailstorms caused severe damage to vehicles across the affected areas. Car rooftops were smashed while windscreens and bodywork of vehicles were badly damaged. For the cars that remained road-worthy, severe disruption to traffic was reported as fallen tree branches blocked roads. Rail traffic was also suspended in some parts and replacement buses were deployed.

Crops were badly damaged by the golf ball-sized hail, with fields of fruit, wheat, sunflowers and vegetables badly hit. Widespread crop damage was reported in Bern and crop fields in parts of Vaud, Fribourg and Lucerne were also affected by the storms. Swiss wine growing regions were also hit, with vineyards in La Côte (Vaud Canton) destroyed.

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Guy Carpenter’s Instrat® department provides CAT-i reports for major natural catastrophes worldwide. These reports cover catastrophes including worldwide tropical cyclones, earthquakes, major UK and European floods and any other natural event that is likely to incur a significant loss to the (re)insurance industry. Please email if you wish to be added to the free email distribution list.

Instrat also provides RISK-i reports for major technological or man-made events worldwide. These reports cover risks to property, transport and life including explosions, fires, crashes, engineering disasters and terrorist attacks that are likely to incur a significant loss to the (re)insurance industry. Please email if you wish to be added to the free email distribution list.

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