Heat has baked the prairies in 2017 and with it spawned a wild storm season. With these storms comes high wind, heavy rain, and sometimes huge balls of hail.
Calgary is the hailstorm capital of Canada while more than half of the country’s severe weather insurance claims are from Alberta. Calgary is at the south end of Alberta’s “Hailstorm Alley” and is home to more than 3 dozen hail storms every year, each with the power to cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. For example, one 2014 storm around Airdrie saw a $450 million bill for insured damages.
You’ve heard of “golf ball sized hail” before, but have you heard of “pudding snack sized hail?” That’s how one witness explained the size of the hail balls landing in their yard during one 2017 Alberta storm.
@joshclassenCTV here is larger hail than the other I sent you. West of Drayton Valley #abstorm pic.twitter.com/LZxA6uTTkE
— Deb C (@debchamb15) July 14, 2017
Here are some other things to know about Alberta’s storm season and how to protect your property:
HOW TO FIGHT BACK AGAINST HAILSTORM ALLEY
Alberta has a fleet of pilots at the ready to seed storms with silver iodide. Flying into storms is the opposite of what the pilots learn in flight school, but heading just underneath the clouds or right into the storm’s eye to seed it helps prevent hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. Check out the documentary When Hail Attacks to learn more about how the Alberta Severe Weather Management Society (ASWMS) team operates.
These two planes just going ham seeding this storm NW of Calgary. lol #abstorm pic.twitter.com/FWqUrLxmfj
— Brampton (@birnsi) July 13, 2017
If you live in an area where hail is a relatively common occurrence, it’s a good idea to learn more about what kind of weather patterns often result in hail. Most common during thunderstorms, hail forms in an environment where there are strong, upward currents of air combined with lower freezing altitudes. If you suspect a thunderstorm is on the way, it’s worth checking your local weather reports frequently for updates.
The best way to avoid hail damage is to park your vehicles inside. (Hey, there’s a reason to clean out the garage!) One Calgary area car dealer, fed up with the summer hail damage each season, spent more than half a million dollars on a tent to cover the vehicles on the lot.
If you’re on the road, take cover immediately. Often, when big storms hit, you’ll find people parked under overpasses along the highway waiting things out. Don’t get out of your car, and stay away from things that could fall on your vehicle like tall trees and power lines.
If you are caught in a hail storm in your vehicle and there is no way to find shelter, park and point your vehicle so that your windshield faces into the storm. Why? Your front windows are designed to withstand more impact than your back windows, helping to better protect you from the elements.
Some people like to leave a vehicle in the driveway of their home while they are away to make it look more “lived in”. In Alberta, this increases your odds of your car being damaged from a hail storm. Keep the car in the garage and consider investing in other deterrents such as home lighting apps to keep thieves at bay.
STORM CHASERS LOVE HAILSTORM ALLEY
While many hunker down and hide during storm season, others have vehicles fueled up, batteries charged, and weather apps at the ready to direct them on a storm chase.
“If there was a really good way to describe it, I would probably be a best-selling author. I don’t think words exist for the amazement of watching what nature can do,” storm chaser Beth Allan told CBC Edmonton.
“As a storm spotter or storm chaser, the last thing you want to do is be involved in a storm in a negative way. You don’t want to take help away from somebody else who needs it,” Allan said.
Here are some of the epic photos from storm chasers documenting Alberta storm season
Now with sunset. East of Olds. #AbStorm 905pm looking west. pic.twitter.com/VhN86yMlWQ
— Beth Allan (@adolwyn) July 10, 2017
East of Millet, on AB-616, on July 13th 2017 #abstorm pic.twitter.com/3ngh9D1eec
— Jesus Jayaro (@realJayaro) July 14, 2017
Finally joined Twitter!Caught up with this powerful tornado warned cell last night between Warburg/Breton. Taken at 532pm. #abstorm #Breton pic.twitter.com/nadxnPuXH8
— Mark Jinks (@markjinksphoto) July 14, 2017
Another day of incredible structure on this tornadic supercell near Breton, AB, July 13. #abstorm #stormhour @weathernetwork pic.twitter.com/H7q0jdQcpG
— Kyle Brittain (@KyleTWN) July 14, 2017
The storms were incredible Today only an hour away from home. Near Breton #abstorm #yegwx @joshclassenCTV @CTVdavidspence pic.twitter.com/ImdcAecQKI
— Mike Rurak (@BattleRiverWX) July 14, 2017
Out South East of Hay Lakes tonight!! #abstorm #canoncanada150 #yegwx #storm #canon #travelalberta #besafeoutthere pic.twitter.com/7mmw7J5teQ
— Keith Moore (@kmoorephotos) July 24, 2017
Just West of Beaumont #abstorm pic.twitter.com/B1qKGDjJ04
— Jamie Turriff (@JamieTurriff) July 24, 2017
Olds #storm edit from yesterday. She was a beauty!! ? #abstorm #Celltastic #stormchasing pic.twitter.com/GOed4C6Uio
— Dave Mason?? (@tweetsinpajamas) July 11, 2017
Captured these on route 855 approx 13km North of Daylands @ around 835ish pm.#abstorm #beammeupscotty #Mothership #stormchasing pic.twitter.com/i01aXyh554
— Becky W. (@travel_girl_bee) July 10, 2017
5 shot panorama of a storm cell near Eckville yesterday. #abstorm @PonokaNews @weathernetwork pic.twitter.com/8GhsKNbGPa
— Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye (@jeffphotodude) July 10, 2017
While we have avoided major hail damage so far this season (touch wood), no fewer than 7 tornadoes have touched down across the province. The stand out photo from Alberta’s 2017 storm season is of Theunis Wessels cutting his grass while a tornado whipped past Three Hills, Alberta.
Even with the storm moving the opposite direction (according to Wessels), I’m not sure I could stay that calm!
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