We in Calgary happen to live right in the middle of a weather anomaly. Hail is common here, while it’s something the rest of the world doesn’t see that often. It’s so common that our area has earned the moniker of “Hailstorm Alley,” and history certainly backs the name up.
On June 13, 2020, residents of northeast Calgary were treated to a whopper of a hailstorm, with golf-ball sized hailstones crashing through car windows and literally ripping the siding off homes. It was the most costly hail event in Canada’s history, resulting in $1.2 billion in insured damages. Calgarians may also remember a doozy of a storm in August 2012, which resulted in $700 million in insured damages, and another ferocious storm the year earlier that resulted in $380 million in insured losses. A massive storm that hit near Airdrie in 2014 resulted in $530 million in claims.
For the past 10 years, Alberta has generated an average of 76% of Canada’s hail damage claims, with the last three years reaching 84%, which is why the province’s infamous “Hailstorm Alley” is now the focus of a five-year study out of Ontario’s Western University called the Northern Hail Project. The results will hopefully help us understand better how hail is formed, why it falls in certain areas and what can be done about it.
Where is Hailstorm Alley?
Hailstorm Alley technically runs from High River in southern Alberta, north through Calgary, through Red Deer to Lacombe, and then west to Rocky Mountain House. The area sees an average of 40 hailstorms each year, and Calgary is considered the hailstorm capital of Canada. Hailstorms tend to happen most often between May and October, and stones have been measured to hit the ground at 130 kilometres per hour.
The average citizen can help contribute to Alberta’s body of knowledge about hail and to the Northern Hail Project after a storm by taking a photo of a hailstone (if it is safe!), preferably with something placed next to it (like a loonie or toonie) for scale. Note the date and location where the stone was found and send them in to the Northern Hail Project’s Twitter page or by using the hashtag #ABstorm.
In the event of a hailstorm
It can be extremely dangerous to be caught outside during hail. Throughout the summer in Alberta, listen carefully to weather reports if you are planning to spend some time outdoors. Plan accordingly if bad weather could be a factor. Monitor local weather forecasts and Alberta Emergency Alerts for watches and warnings. Move vehicles and outdoor furniture to shelter or cover items well. Keep your trees and shrubs well-trimmed and healthy to avoid power outages caused by falling branches.
During a hail event, the Insurance Bureau of Canada recommends:
- Seeking shelter in a safe building and staying away from doors and windows. Close all the curtains and blinds.
- When driving, pull over to a safe location and face away from the windows to protect yourself from broken glass. Cover yourself with a blanket if possible.
- If no shelter is available, crouch down away from the wind and protect your head and neck.
- Avoid trees, towers, metal fences or poles that attract lightning.
Preparation is always key for the minimization of damage and hassle. Learn how to prepare for a hailstorm and the steps to follow after with the City of Calgary’s hail preparedness guide, which provides a number of tips in several different languages. The Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction’s Hail Smart Program also offers a number of additional resources for home and business owners for the protection of their properties.
Damage from a hailstorm? Here’s what to do
- Identify all the damage.
- Take mitigation measures to ensure no further damage occurs.
- Take a number of photos of the damage from several different angles.
- Keep all the receipts for any repairs or cleanup costs.
Trust Lane’s for all your Alberta insurance needs
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