Hail the size of golf balls and larger smashed windshields, stripped leaves off trees and even tore off bark in some areas of Central Alberta on Tuesday night.
Environment Canada received reports of hail slightly larger than golf balls in the Red Deer’s north end and Lacombe. Hail reached the size of golf balls in Clive. Sylvan Lake saw some loonie-sized hail. Toonie-sized hail struck Donalda, and in Leslieville it was nickel-sized.
Carrie Berg of Red Deer just finished the 13th hole on River Bend Golf Course shortly before she saw hail coming her way. It looked like a wall of white.
“The sound was like a cross between a really, really strong wind and a locomotive. It was so loud. And all of a sudden it just started coming down,” Berg said on Wednesday.
Her group ran to a nearby shelter but not before she got nailed by the big, hard hail.
“It was like someone throwing stuff at you. I have a bruise on my shoulder where I was hit. It was crazy. And my husband’s car, the back windshield was shattered and there are dents.”
While waiting out the storm, they saw a young moose on the run.
“It looked very frantic, just running down the fairway in the hail and rain,” Berg said.
Thalia Hibbs of Lacombe was at Gull Lake when hail struck. She returned home to find the front windshield of her vehicle, which was parked in front of her house, smashed and cracked.
“I can’t drive it right now because of the windshield,” Hibbs said.
“When I drove through town, there was definitely a lot of busted up vehicles. There were some even with the rear windshield gone, smashed right out.”
A small window on her home was also damaged by hail. Coincidently, final repairs were just completed on a broken window from a previous hail storm, she said.
Lacombe Mayor Steve Christie said he heard of hail damage to siding, roofs, windows, windshields and skylights.
“We have some vehicles damaged in our fleet. I haven’t heard of any windows being taken out in municipal buildings. We didn’t get a huge amount of rain with it. Our storm systems were able to keep up,” Christie said.
He said because of severe storms in recent years, residents are quick to help out by clearing branches and leaves knocked off trees that plug storm drains.
“As I made my rounds last night after the storm had gone by, people were out cleaning those storm drains. Kudos to them.”
City staff also worked late.
Christie was playing at Lacombe Golf and Country Club when the hail came and he had to seek shelter.
“It was pretty crazy. They were in between golf ball and tennis-ball size for the most part. That lasted for quite some time, then it went down to pea size and then some rain,” Christie said.
“I know a few buddies were bruised up a little bit.”
The City of Red Deer only reported a few broken branches from the storm.
Environment Canada meteorologist Bill McMurtry said photos sent in from north of Lacombe showed the strength of the hail in that area.
“Not only did it strip all the leaves off trees, in some cases it took the bark off some of the trees. That’s pretty good indication of how hard and damaging that hail was,” McMurtry said.
Two lines of thunderstorms went through the Red Deer area, with the first one producing the hail.
McMurtry said it wasn’t the largest hail seen so far this summer in Alberta, but it was the worst widespread hail storm.
Rimbey fire chief John Weisgerber said three trees hit a power line and landed on a house and a motorcycle parked nearby. Damage was limited.
He said pea-sized hail and rain from the storm also flooded about a half a dozen streets in Rimbey for a short period.
Several different storm cells formed in region on Tuesday night. A brief tornado warning was issued for the Olds and Sundre area, but none were reported.
“All the ingredients were in place for a tornado to develop. We had some terrible pictures of a rotating mesocyclone, which is a rotation within a thunderstorm and that’s the environment in which tornadoes develop,” McMurtry said.
“For people who saw that particular storm cloud, it was quite frightening because it looked like it was going to develop a tornado.”
He said unsettled conditions are expected over the next week so there is a chance for more thunderstorms.
“The good news is the environment is slightly different. We’re dealing with an atmosphere that may not be quite as unstable, with not as much energy, to create the large scale storm we saw Tuesday night.”