EDMONTON — Matt Berry was returning home from golfing Monday night when cloudy skies quickly turned into a rare storm that dropped softball-sized hail, giving way to his windshield and leaving about 150 bumps in his car.
“I was covered in shards of glass,” the graphic designer said of recalling the moment he pulled over on a country road for cover while driving from Innisfail, Alta. , at his home in Red Deer, Alberta.
“The noise was quite loud,” he said. “It was just crazy. Scary at times, but really it was just shock and awe more than anything.
Environment and Climate Change Canada said Wednesday that pieces of hail that fell in central Alberta ranged in size from peas, dimes, nickels, golf balls, chicken eggs, bullets tennis, baseballs and softballs.
The Innisfail, Pine Lake, Condor, Rimbey and Ferrier areas were all affected, the agency said.
Environment Canada had issued a tornado watch hours before the storm, warning that large hail could fall later in the evening and cause a dangerous and life-threatening situation. Around 6 p.m. an alert was sent to warn people to take shelter immediately.
Videos on social media have been posted after the storm of drivers on the Queen Elizabeth II Freeway – the main road between Edmonton and Calgary – came to a halt and covered their heads as hailstorms pounded their windows .
RCMP Corporal. Gina Slaney said 34 vehicles were significantly damaged during the storm.
Slaney said there were also numerous minor injuries.
The most serious injuries included a cut on the side of someone’s neck, she said. Three collisions were reported during the storm.
Sara Hoffman, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said the size of the hail was larger than expected.
“The Prairies are a magical place with thunderstorms, so I was expecting severe thunderstorms on Monday,” she said.
“We all thought the maximum hail size would be around seven to eight centimeters.”
But a group that researches hailstorms in Canada says a hailstone found in Markerville, Alta., on Monday weighs a record 293 grams.
“Some colleagues and I maintain a national database of very large hail from around the world and prior to Monday’s event there were only 21 documented hailstones weighing over 290 grams,” said Dr Julian Brimelow, director executive of the Northern Hail Project. .
“As far as we know, this is also the largest documented hailstone to fall in Canada.”
The last record hailstone in Canada fell on August 27, 1973 in Saskatchewan.
Brimelow said three crew members discovered the hailstone on soft snow under a tree.
“It looks like the hail didn’t shed too much (ice) when it hit the ground,” he said.
Then it was immediately placed in a freezer for testing.
Hoffman said the size of hail in Monday’s storm is rare for Canada.
“Alberta averages 65 reports of severe hail per year,” she said. “A thunderstorm with hail becomes severe once the size of the hail is greater than a nickel or two centimeters.”
Hoffman said it was also unusual for the storm to cross a major highway.
“It takes a lot of things to line up for severe thunderstorms to have such an impact on such an important transportation corridor like this,” she said.
“You have hot air under cold air and it creates very turbulent mixing. Winds coming from different directions, at different heights, at different speeds. We had a low pressure system developing over the center of the province, so that was our thunderstorm trigger.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada said in an email that it may not have estimates of insured losses for several weeks. He encouraged Albertans to take photos of the damage and contact their insurance representative.
Berry said he contacted his on the side of the road immediately after the storm and had already started his insurance claim.
“I also called the tow truck straight away and I think I was the second to reach them because she was like, ‘What’s going on because my phone is blowing up,'” a he declared.
The RCMP and firefighters got to the scene fairly quickly, he added.
He then called his mother and arrived home around 10:30 p.m. that evening.
“At the end of the day, vehicles can be replaced, assets can be replaced,” Barry said.
Hoffman said those caught in the storm mostly did what they should have done to stay safe.
“They intuitively knew what to do, which was to pull over, stop driving, cover their face and head with their arms, and try to face the window the wind is blowing towards. “
She added that the stormy weather conditions won’t leave Alberta for a few days.
“This year has been very active, so there is plenty of energy available for storms.”
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 3, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION