TORONTO -- Severe thunderstorms in parts of Ontario and Quebec last month caused at least $80 million in damage, a major Canadian insurance industry group says.

Heavy downpours paired with hail and powerful winds hit southern and eastern Ontario on July 22 and 23, bringing down trees and power lines and causing flash floods in an area spanning from Hamilton to western Quebec.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada, an association representing most insurance companies in the country, says claims in the wake of the storms show damage to homes and businesses went far beyond the areas hit by a hydro blackout on both sides of the Quebec-Ontario border.

The storms left close to 15,000 hydro customers in the Ottawa Valley area in the dark and another 57,000 without power in Quebec.

Pete Karageorgos, the association's manager of consumer and industry relations, says hail and water caused a large portion of the damage, especially in the Ottawa area. But he cautioned the $80 million figure is a preliminary number.

"Once all claims are submitted and processed, it will likely be higher than the $80 million initially reported," he said.

In recent years, the trend in Canada has been to more storms -- and more severe ones, Karageorgos says. Fallen trees, downed power lines, roof damage and hail-dented cars are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of property damage arising from extreme weather events, he adds.

The insurance industry now sees more claims related to water damage than to fire, says Karageorgos, adding, "Water is the new fire."

"The damage, if you have a kitchen fire or a flood could be comparable."

A report released by the association in June calculated insured losses to catastrophic events in Canada totalled $1.6 billion in 2011 alone.

According to the report, the country's aging sewer infrastructure often can't handle the increased precipitation. At the same time, Canadians continue to upgrade basements in their homes, which in turn affects damage costs and insurance claims related to flooding.

The report also cautioned a projected increase in the frequency of severe storms, tornadoes, flash flooding, wildfires and other weather-related events in Canada could lead to more insurance claims in the next 40 years.