Top ten weather stories for 2010: story ten

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10. Canada’s Most Expensive Hailstorm

A map of Canada indicating that on July 12, a hail storm hit the Calgary area.

Hailstones bigger than a toonie pelted the Calgary area on July 12, 2010.  Bill McMurtry © Environment Canada 2010

Calgaryagain lived up to its reputation as the hailstorm capital of Canada. The Insurance Bureau of Canada sees hail as such a threat there that it operates a cloud-seeding program in order to diminish the size of hailstones falling over the city – a pea-size stone does much less damage than one the size of a golf ball. Hard hail is also more damaging that soft hail. On July 12, just before 2 p.m., a fierce 30-minute storm pelted the Stampede city with large hail balls – some that approached baseball size – along with  heavy rain, gusty winds and some background thunder and lightning. In a flash, streets turned into ponds, basements and intersections flooded, and manhole covers lifted. The brief but noisy hailstorm shattered glass, mangled outdoor furniture and storage sheds, and stripped trees. At the University of Calgary, a rooftop greenhouse lost three-quarters of its windows. The mid-afternoon timing only added to the storm’s destruction as streets were busy and parking lots full. Pedestrians ran for cover as hail harder than normal bounced a metre off the ground.

Outside the city, the massive hailstorm decimated over 90,000 hectares of cropland near Strathmore and Hussar, spurring crop damage claims totaling $18.5 million. The huge number of claims forced insurers and auto body shops to bring in field adjusters and dent technicians from other provinces and the United States and Europe. When all was said and done, Canadian insurers estimated the dollar value of total claims at about $400 million, making it the costliest hailer in Canadian history. The previous claims record of $340 million, set in 1991, was also in Calgary.

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