The frequency and severity of extreme weather events are a growing concern.
An intense July rainstorm in Toronto caused headaches for homeowners, leading to power outages and flooding.
But it was a hailstorm in Calgary this past June that really caught people’s attention. Ice pellets the size of tennis balls plummeted to Earth at speeds of 80 km/h to 100 km/h. House siding and car windshields were smashed, wheat fields were ravaged and damage topped $1.2 billion, making it the fourth costliest natural disaster in Canadian history.
One of the reasons that storm caught so much attention was because it happened directly over a large city, causing massive damage, says Dan Kulak, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.
“A lot of baseball-sized hail has also been falling in the middle of antelope country,” he says, adding studies continue to be done to assess whether these kinds of severe storms are really more common now.
The risk to human life is also high when severe hailstorms occur. Think of the damage a baseball pitcher could cause, hurling a fastball at the head of a hitter. The damage caused by severe hail could be comparable.
According to Dr. Terry Krauss, an accredited consulting meteorologist based in Red Deer, the severity of hailstorms is on the rise. Krauss is project director of the Alberta Severe Weather Management Society (ASWMS), a private, non-profit organization that manages a program called cloud seeding. The objective of cloud seeding is to alter the type of precipitation that hits the Earth.
Efforts to mitigate the damage from hail through cloud-seeding
When a potential hailstorm is identified, pilots in twin-engine high-performance aircraft fly up and disperse billions of silver iodide particles into developing clouds. The seeding results in the formation of billions of additional ice crystals that compete for excess cloud water, producing smaller ice particles. The objective is to convert those large hailstones like we saw in June into smaller sizes or even rain. Krauss says they have been doing this since 1996 and it has had a positive impact on suppressing hailstorms.
Alberta is especially susceptible to major hailstorms. According to the ASWMS, more than 40 major hailstorms hit the province every summer. Hail has caused more than $4 billion in damages over the past decade, according to the organization.
Krauss says the severe hailstorm in June was seeded 45 minutes before it hit. Radar images showed hail size was reduced over north of Calgary but not over northeast Calgary when some rain clouds merged over that region. The merged rain particles became hail embryos that grew to very large hail. The strong winds that day over northeast Calgary made the storm more severe.
Home and auto insurance policies can protect against certain damage caused by hail
Allstate national property claim consultant Scott Johnson says he has seen an increase in the severity of hailstorms.
“I am not a meteorologist, but we are paying more to fix damages when we do get a hail event,” he says. “Every insurance guy will tell you this June event was big in terms of how much money the industry paid on average per claim.
“We saw cars absolutely annihilated. Normally, when you get marble-size hail, the roofs or hoods of cars get dented. In extreme cases, you might get a chip in the glass. Often with the siding of homes, you might see little holes [as a result of hail]. But homes in this case were shredded.”
In terms of auto insurance coverage, in the wake of more severe hailstorms, Johnson says individuals need comprehensive coverage that will protect them against damage from hail. Home insurance policies will generally provide coverage from hail damage.
Doublecheck your insurance polices, Johnson says. Homeowners who are protected against hail will find there is usually more than enough coverage to offset damage costs to their property, but you want to be sure.
The Calgary event got a lot of people thinking about weather, the reoccurrence of severe hail events and the risks attached to that. Have a chat with your insurance broker today about what you have in place to protect your property and read our article for tips on steps to take before, during and after a hailstorm.
*Disclaimer: This information has been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as providing specific legal or insurance advice.”