Holy hail storm: Grapefruit-sized hail batters Edmonton-area

A strong thunder and hail storm battered parts of Edmonton and the surrounding region Friday night, with grapefruit-sized hail balls breaking windshields and damaging homes.

Alberta hailstorms in 2019 already almost double yearly average for province

A picture of a large hailstone that dropped in northwest Edmonton during Friday night's powerful storm. (Jlene Pelkey Scmaltz/Facebook)

A strong thunder and hail storm battered parts of Edmonton and the surrounding region Friday night, with grapefruit-sized hail stones cracking windshields and damaging homes. 

Environment Canada reported hail stones larger than 100 millimetres in diameter fell around Spruce Grove while wind gusts topped 70 km/h west of Edmonton.

People shared photos and videos of the hailstorm on social media and others assessed damage to their home. 

Edwin Huber has lived in Spruce Grove for nearly seven decades, but the hailstones that fell from the sky Friday night —putting multiple cracks in his windshield — are the biggest he's ever seen. 

"It was coming down pretty hard and quite a bit of wind with it," he said.

"That's what took the windshield out, I think: the wind behind the boulders." 

Supercell thunderstorms from north of Drayton Valley towards Spruce Grove are responsible for the size of the hail, Environment Canada meteorologist Blaine Lowry said. 

He said a supercell storm has strong and persistent updrafts that keep the hail circulating in the upper level of the storm, where it can grow to sizes seen on Friday. 

Spruce Grove was one of the area's hit hardest by Friday's hailstorm. Alberta has already seen nearly double the hailstorms in 2019 than the province gets in a typical year. (Amanda Weder/Facebook)

Recent data from Environment and Climate Change Canada shows Alberta has already seen more severe weather events so far in 2019 than all of 2018 and nearly double the 30-year average. 

Alberta sees an average of 50 hailstorms a year, based on data collected between 1986 and 2015. Hailstorms hit the province 92 times by the end of July this year. 

The number of hail storms and the size of the stones are expected to increase in parts of west-central Alberta as the atmosphere warms due to climate change, a 2017 study published in the Nature Research journal forecasts. 

Poor weather affecting crop conditions

"Last night is really going to hurt a lot of people, farmers, because [the hail] literally just knocked everything down," said Roy Bohn, a farmer in Spruce Grove.

Bohn says the hailstorm missed his farm, but his hay crop was hit with rain showers. He says the rain has stopped him from getting a second cut of hay this year

Last month was the wettest July since 1982 in Edmonton, with about 160 millimetres falling on the city — or nearly double the 30-year average. 

"It has been a tough couple of rough seasons," Bohn said. 

Overall crop conditions in Edmonton area, stretching from Drayton Valley to Athabasca, are down by 11 per cent this year compared to the five-year average, according to Alberta crop report released Friday.

About 55 per cent of the area's crops are rated good and excellent this year, compared to an average 66 percent. 

The report also rated a third of the soil moisture in the area as excessive. 

With files from Rachel Ward


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