Calgary

Northeast Calgary communities ask province to declare $1B hailstorm a natural disaster

Nine community groups in northeast Calgary have signed a letter to Alberta's premier, asking the government to declare the hailstorm that battered their neighbourhoods a natural disaster so they can access relief money.

Declaration would allow hard-hit region to access relief funds

Meynard David, right, watches volunteers help board up his house as residents begin cleaning up in Calgary on June 14, 2020, after a major hailstorm damaged homes and flooded streets the day before. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Nine community groups in northeast Calgary have signed a letter to Alberta's premier, asking the government to declare the hailstorm that battered their neighbourhoods a natural disaster so they can access relief money.

The June 13 storm caused an estimated $1 billion in damages, shredding the siding of homes and smashing car windows. The Insurance Bureau of Canada has said 20,000 claims have been filed so far and many more claims are expected.

Khalil Karbani, who was tasked with writing the letter, said $15,000 of damage was done to his roof, and hailstones smashed through two panes of glass windows and into his home.

"There was glass everywhere, there was water everywhere, hailstones the size of tennis balls," he said.

Sukh Singh, 22, sweeps up broken glass from his car on June 14, 2020. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

He said his insurance company will only cover 20 per cent of the damage after deductible.

A spokesperson for the Insurance Bureau of Canada said settlements that low are rare and take into account the age and life expectancy of the damaged item, as well as the policy chosen by the customer.

Karbani said many in the neighbourhood are already facing financial hardships tied to the pandemic and oil price crash. He pointed to one neighbour who had recently cancelled his car insurance to save money, as he's working from home now and not driving. After the hailstorm, the neighbour's car is now a writeoff.

"What we need right now is financial assistance, that's what we need and we're not getting it," Karbani said.

"It's going to affect people's mental health when this financial stress is on them and on their families."

Many residents in Calgary's northeast are also immigrants to Canada.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi's home was damaged in the storm, and Councillor George Chahal organized a neighbourhood cleanup, with the city providing bins to collect debris.

But Karbani said money is what's really needed, and a provincial natural disaster declaration would allow the region to access relief funds.

Firefighters work to clear a blocked street drain in northeast Calgary the day after the hail storm on June 13, 2020. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Premier Jason Kenney toured the area over the weekend, following a visit from Opposition Leader Rachel Notley.

And Calgary-Falconridge MLA Devinder Toor made a statement about the community's resiliance in the legislature on Monday. 

But the government has yet to say whether it will declare the storm a natural disaster.

Earlier this year, flooding caused $228 million in insured damages in the Fort McMurray area and the province launched multiple financial support programs for affected residents.

With files from Tahirih Foroozan

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