One year later, residents say northeast Calgary still hasn't recovered from devastating hailstorm
On June 13, 2020, hail as large as tennis balls smashed windows and tore up siding
Arnold Ambler said three minutes after the storm hit, hail smashed through a skylight — sending him and his family scrambling to cover their possessions with blankets as massive pieces of ice, glass and rain came pouring in.
Now, one year to the day after the hailstorm that battered northeast Calgary, Ambler said you can still see signs of the damage.
"Sadly, we would like to forget that day. Still driving around that community … it's a stark reminder of that evening," the Skyview Ranch Community Association president said.
The storm caused an estimated $1.5 billion in damage, the fourth costliest natural disaster in Canada's history.
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Khalil Karbani became a spokesperson for other homeowners impacted by the storm — his Taradale home's siding was shredded, and on Saturday, repairs were still underway.
"My daughter started crying when it happened, because to see a window cave in, which is something we've never seen in our lives before, so it was a very traumatic experience for the youngsters, as well as us," he said.
"A year down the road and we are still repairing our homes."
For months following the storm, homeowners lobbied the provincial government for financial help.
Calgary's northeast is home to many newcomers to Canada, and many in the area reported issues navigating the insurance system or dealing with contractors, while others were underinsured.
The provincial government provided disaster relief funding to residents who experienced overland flooding, but not for hail damage or insurance deductibles, the primary issues for the majority of people impacted.
Calgary is also now offering a grant up to $3,000 for replacing roofs damaged in 2020 with more hail-resistant materials.
"Being totally honest ... it's a little bit too late," Karbani said.
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Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said while the city provided support, he understands how communities were let down.
"I really can't believe it's been a year and there are still so many people who have not been able to get out from under it yet and to me that is a tremendously sad thing," the mayor said.
"We were in the middle of a pandemic, there was a lot going on but I don't think the people in northeast Calgary felt that the community — in particular the government of Alberta — was there for them the way were there for other natural disasters, and to me that's a real shame."
Irfan Sabir, NDP MLA for Calgary-McCall, said he has written to the finance minister to urge him to support families dealing with ongoing insurance issues.
"Residents continue to struggle and now some insurance companies are refusing to renew coverage or provide insurance to residents based on 'claims frequency and severity,'" said Sabir in an emailed release. "Now they find themselves unable to find affordable coverage. This is unfair and this needs to stop."
Charlotte Taillon, press secretary for the municipal affairs minister, said in an emailed response that the department worked directly with affected residents and the city to ensure companies honoured insurance policies with their clients.
"We know Albertans pay for insurance and rely on it to cover hail and sewage damage in situations just like this. Both are covered under insurance," she wrote.
Taillon said the previous NDP government did not provide government funding to those impacted by hail.
"By contrast, Alberta's government remains committed to helping Albertans and communities recover from uninsurable loss and damages caused by overland flooding from extraordinary rainfall during this already difficult time," she wrote.
Hail season runs from June until September in Alberta, and the Insurance Bureau of Canada said earlier this year that this decade Alberta has experienced more frequent and severe weather events than any other region in Canada.
Karbani said that knowledge is taking a mental toll on his community.
"There's a huge psychological issue. What if it happens again?" Karbani said.
With files from Terri Trembath and Stephanie Rousseau