Calgary

Calgary officials thank 'neighbours helping neighbours' after severe thunderstorm

As Calgarians clean up after a weekend of hail and rain, the city's emergency leaders are thanking people for helping their neighbours after the fierce storm.

Hailstorm and flash flooding left a possible $1 billion in damage to houses, vehicles

All three of Scott Armstrong's family vehicles are now writeoffs as a result of the massive storm that hit Calgary on Saturday. This photo shows the before and after scene on Armstrong's street. (Scott Armstrong)

As Calgarians clean up after a weekend of hail and rain, the city's emergency leaders are thanking people for helping their neighbours after the fierce storm.

Coun. George Chahal said he saw people pitching in to clean up broken glass, smashed planters and other debris from the massive thunderstorm that plummeted hail into homes and vehicles.

"That's one thing as a city we become, is strong and resilient," the councillor said. "Neighbours helping neighbours in a time of need."

Chahal joined other Calgary officials at a news conference Monday afternoon to discuss the city's response to Saturday's storm.

Six-centimetre hail in Calgary

Two storm systems brought heavy rain and hail to the Calgary area and a large swath of southern Alberta. One moved up from Taber into Hanna, and the other from Calgary up through to Edmonton.

Northeast Calgary bore the brunt of the damage, said Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologist Alysa Pederson, with six-centimetre hail.

In Duchess, north of Brooks, residents measured hail up to nine centimetres across, Pederson said.

"Storms like this are common in Alberta. We get hailstorms that form golf balls or larger every year," Pederson said.

"Now, whether or not those storms go through say, Calgary, or whether they're through Sundre or Olds, just north of Calgary, that's where it differs."

Erik Hytonen sent in these photos of hailstones from Saturday night's massive storm. Residents reported seeing tennis ball-sized hail. (Erik Hytonen)

Heavy rain filled Calgary streets, even flooding parts of Deerfoot Trail. Firefighters used inflatable rafts to rescue people stranded in their cars.

Many in Calgary and the surrounding areas suffered heavy damage to their homes and vehicles.

Chahal said he was struck by how widespread the damage was.

"This wasn't just a few cars or a few blocks. This was a significant issue," he said.

Chief Tom Sampson of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency said the roadways flooded because too much rain came too quickly, overflowing the runoff ponds.

Possibly $1 billion in damage

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi estimates Saturday's lashing caused $1 billion or more in damage and hit tens of thousands of homes, including his own.

"My house was bashed up pretty badly — lots of holes in the siding. I thought I had it pretty bad and I was allowed to feel bad for myself for a minute or two, until I had the opportunity to see what had happened to other people," he said Monday.

"We are really in a place where the damage is extraordinary."

Residents surveyed the damage before beginning cleanup on Sunday after a major hailstorm battered homes and flooded streets the previous evening. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

This coming Saturday is Neighbour Day in Calgary. Nenshi encouraged people to use the annual celebration, started after the 2013 floods, to help their neighbours with the damage.

"There is nowhere else in the world I'd rather be than right here. There is nowhere else I'd rather be when disaster strikes than right here," Nenshi said.

He noted that many newcomers may have suffered significant damage to their homes. He asked that if anyone has translating skills to reach out to the city or community organizations, as people may need assistance navigating insurance processes.

Last time the hail was this bad was in August 2012, which was arguably one of the worst natural disasters in Canadian history, he said. In that case, golf ball-sized hail pounded northern Calgary. 

Opposition requests disaster declaration

In the legislature on Monday, NDP Opposition leader Rachel Notley urged Premier Jason Kenney and his United Conservatives to declare a disaster so Calgarians could access relief funds.

Kenney said he had been in contact with Nenshi.

"I've not heard a request for a disaster declaration from the municipality, but we will continue to stay in touch with them," the premier said.

He added that the Alberta Emergency Management Agency is conducting hydrology tests to determine whether the storm could be considered extraordinary. That, together with a request from the city, could lead to a disaster declaration.

Homeowners should keep photos, receipts

Epic Roofing & Exteriors was scrambling to keep up with calls for repairs since the storm, said founder Merlin Bartel.

"We get a new phone call about every 90 seconds right now, and so we're turning a lot of folks away," he said Monday.

Bartel estimated the company had received 400 to 500 inquiries by Monday — compared with 200 to 300 calls during a regular week.

The COVID-19 pandemic means more people are at home and wanting to get started on repairs right away, he added. But the pandemic and the broader economic downturn have led contractors to downsize, reducing resources available for the surge of new work.

Rob de Pruis with the Insurance Bureau of Canada said it's too soon to say how much insurable damage the storm caused, but it was significant.

Most home and auto insurance policies cover hail and wind damage, he said, and homeowners should document everything with photos and keep all receipts.

WATCH | Calgary cleans up after the thunderstorm:

Calgary residents are cleaning up after a massive storm flooded its streets, while baseball-sized hail damaged cars and homes, and at least one tornado touched down outside the city. 2:03

With files from The Canadian Press

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