Matt Berry had pulled off of Highway 2 on Monday night when hailstones near the size of baseballs began pummelling his vehicle.
The visibility in the torrential downpour was so poor, Berry initially didn’t know what happening. But the noise was indescribable.
“It’s so hard to equate it to anything,” added the Red Deer resident, who thought the ear-splitting cracks of the hailstones striking metal and glass sounded something like gunfire — or maybe even a succession of bombs going off.
“When they were hitting the windshield was the scariest part,” recalled Berry.
The 41-year-old graphic artist had to duck his head for protection when his windshield began shattering. Small pieces of flying glass left tiny cuts on his legs.
When Berry, who’d been golfing in Innisfail before the storm hit, was finally able to get out and survey the damage, he saw the entire hood and roof of his car were pockmark with more than 100 dents.
His windshield was sagging inward with dozens of spiderweb-like cracks.
Berry considers himself fortunate to have turned off the highway onto a side road before the full force of the storm was felt. He said he never seen anything like it. “This was my first personal experience with anything that did that kind of damage.”
And he wasn’t the only one.
At least 34 vehicles were also seriously cracked and pitted by the same hailstorm that blew in at around 6:15 p.m. Monday, amid Environment Canada tornado warnings. The largest torrent of hailstones were released near the Penhold overpass on Highway 2.
On Tuesday morning, Const. Gina Slaney a spokesperson for RCMP K Division, said reports of vehicle damage are still coming in.
Innisfail police also responded to three motor vehicle crashes in this area during the storm. Emergency Services crews were also on scene, but only minor injuries were reported, added Slaney.
Officers from Innisfail Freeway Patrol spent Monday evening and much of the night helping tow undrivable cars and trucks out of the ditches and onto side roads.
Yet half-a-dozen badly damaged vehicles remained on the side of the highway, awaiting tow trucks at 6 p.m. on Tuesday morning when Cody McIntosh, agricultural services manager for Red Deer County, drove out to the area to inspect for crop damage.
McIntosh was dumbfounded to see, not only smashed windows on these cars and trucks, but also some “not crushed, not dimpled — but flattened” roofs.
McIntosh had never seen hail as large as what people were posting on social media.
Considering the damage done to vehicles, McIntosh was surprised not to see more major crop destruction in the area.
McIntosh believes it could be possible that the large hailstones were sporadic and just “punched through” the crops, instead of flattening them like a “wall” of smaller hailstones could have done.
But he’s still waiting to hear agricultural reports from his crew. He heard Monday’s storm had also wreaked havoc in Markerville, Spruce View, and Benalto.