Top ten weather stories for 2009: story seven

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7. Multi-Million Dollar Hailer Pounds Urban and Rural Alberta

Map of Canada highlighting regions in Alberta that experienced a severe wind and hail storm during the summer of 2009

Representation of the damage caused to trees by the hail storm. Photo: Corel corporation © Environment Canada, 1994

Just before midnight on August 2, a powerful storm moved out of the Rocky foothills and tracked southeastward across the province with wind and hail that left a devastating path of destruction to city and country. The main hail zone scarped the extreme northeastern portion of Calgary. Inside the city, hail diameters reached baseball size and wind speeds peaked at 107 km/h. In its wake, the storm left downed trees, broken windows and a swath of damage, knocking out power to several thousand customers. In some places, hail measured 10 cm deep. Parks crews in Calgary spent days cleaning up fallen trees and broken branches that had damaged several houses and vehicles. A direct hit on the city just 20 km to the southwest would have been catastrophic with damage losses in excess of $1 billion. Still, Canadian insures estimated industry loss estimates at $0.5 billion, which made it the second or third largest catastrophic event in Canadian history. The nearby town of Carstairs was devastated by the battering large hail. Literally every house in town suffered major hail damage. Some looked like they’d been hit by gunfire with gaping holes left in the siding. Repair crews set up mini camps nearby to help repair the damage – a job that is not likely to be completed this year. Hail damage stretched from Olds to Bow Island and was 55 km wide in places. Baseball-size hailstones crunched grain bins and stripped bark off trees, while powerful winds blew over sheds and barns. Some horses and cattle had to be euthanized.  The massive hailstorm decimated over 600,000 ha of Alberta cropland spurring 1,500 hail crop damage claims. In total, two-thirds of the year’s hail crop losses occurred as a result of the long weekend storm.

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