Then Matt Berry Monday night Innisfail, Alta. left to drive north to Red Deer, the weather was “perfect,” he recalls.
But about 10 minutes later, just after 6pm, it was a completely different story. A storm swept through the area, hitting huge chunks of hail on dozens of cars that stopped along the Queen Elizabeth II Highway.
Berry was just north of Innisfail, near Antler Hill, when it hit.
“The next thing I know is my windshield caved in on me and cracked and broke,” he said in an interview with the Calgary eye opener.
“My windshield was absolutely smashed… I was just afraid this thing would come on top of me.”
He managed to get to the side of the road and wait for the storm to pass. In total, it took about 10 to 15 minutes, he said, but it left its mark.
According to RCMP, 34 vehicles were damaged on Monday – less than a previous estimate of 70 – while numerous people suffered minor injuries and three collisions were caused by the storm.
Stuart Brideaux, public education officer at Alberta Health Services, says the local fire and ambulance service were also on the scene at about 6:30 p.m. Although some people were indirectly affected by hail that came through windows and broken glass, he said no one needed transport to the hospital.
That’s good news, given the magnitude of the hailstones coming down.
“We were all a bit shocked to be honest…I’m pretty sure we’re probably going to set a new record in terms of mass,” said Julian Brimelow, executive director of Western University’s Northern Hail Project – a five-year study based in Alberta.
“We’ve had reports of grapefruit-sized hail, softball-sized hail… Usually, on an exceptional day, we might have tennis-ball-sized hail, so six to seven inches. But [Monday]we had a lot of stones that were more than 10 centimeters in diameter.”
• Documented a long-track supercell
• Collected 7 bags of baseball to grapefruit-sized hail
• Four probes deployed for hail cores (2 with video) and all successfully hit
• Measured and packed a 106 mm hailstone pic.twitter.com/j2Fxs2uUHQ< /a>
The team took their samples to a lab in Red Deer to confirm whether the hailstones set a provincial or even a national record.
“As far as we can tell, the rocks were on the ground for about 20 minutes before our team could get there. So some melted,” he said. “It will be close, I think.”
He’s not sure why the hail in this storm was so much bigger than usual, but he expects it could have something to do with an abundant amount of moisture near the ground Monday, which isn’t typical in Alberta.
That element, along with the usual storm ingredients, may have come together to give more fuel to the creation of the hailstones.
Matt Melnyk, a storm chaser in Alberta, also wonders why the hailstones got so big. He went to Innisfail Monday to assess and photograph the storm.
“This particular storm had a very, very large rotating updraft, which kept the hail in the storm for a long time,” he said in an interview with CBC Calgary News at 6 p.m.
“It was extremely intense.”
VIEW | Storm chaser Matt Melnyk describes what it was like watching Monday’s hailstorm at Innisfail:
Brimelow says one of the reasons his team is so motivated to better understand these storms is because they know how they can affect people’s lives.
“Our hearts really go out to those people because we understand how devastating it can be.”
Cleaning up continued on Tuesday
Geoff Tagg has seen that devastation with his own eyes.
He is the owner of Tagg’s Extreme Towing Ltd. at Red Deer. His team was called to help just north of Innisfail Monday night, and he believes dozens more cars were maimed by the storm.
“All hell broke loose… There were about 100, maybe a few more, up there with all kinds of damage,” he said.
“The windshields were just broken. Some of them looked like someone had slammed the front.”
A number of tow companies showed up to take cars off the road, Tagg said. They were on the scene until about 3 a.m. and at least one company continued to work until Tuesday to get cars out of the area.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada says it may not have estimates on insured losses for several weeks.
But if your vehicle is hit by hail, there are some steps you need to take.
First, take photos of the damage from all angles, said Rob de Pruis, national director of consumer and industry relations at the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
Then contact your insurance representative and provide as much detail as possible.
“The sooner you can file the claim the better, but you do have a two-year window to finalize everything related to your claim,” he said in an interview with CBC Edmonton News at 6pm.
You may want to purchase optional extended coverage, said the Pruis, which covers hail, wind and water damage to your vehicle.
If you pay additional fees, make sure to keep these receipts.
“If you can’t drive your vehicle, if you have your vehicle towed to the nearest repair facility, keep the receipt for that tow as that may be covered under your insurance policy as well.”
Berry is one of several drivers who have had his vehicle towed to a nearby lot. He got a ride home from his mother who lives nearby.
After the whole ordeal, he says he would advise anyone heading out to take the weather warnings seriously and stay home if possible.
“I never thought that could have happened so quickly,” he said.
“It was insane.”