Storms light up region

Statistically speaking Red Deer is a centre for lightning strikes and storms, but last weekend it was the eye of the storm in Central Alberta as systems moved through the region not the city.

Statistically speaking Red Deer is a centre for lightning strikes and storms, but last weekend it was the eye of the storm in Central Alberta as systems moved through the region not the city.

Lightning strikes lit up parts of the Red Deer sky, but far enough away to only offer flashes of faded illumination. The bigger storms in the region, according to Environment Canada meteorologist Bill McMurtry, were north of Rimbey and down by Didsbury.

“Nothing really major, we had a few reports of hail,” said McMurtry. “Most of the activity was in Saskatchewan and Manitoba over the weekend.”

On Saturday night, north of Rimbey and west of Blufton there was loonie-sized hail. Then on Sunday there was quarter-sized hail south of Olds.

“The biggest hail we had Sunday night in Alberta was toonie-sized in Springbank (west of Calgary) and loonie- to toonie-sized hail in Langdon to the east of Calgary and a little bit further south,” said McMurtry.

“There was baseball-sized hail in central Saskatchewan over the weekend, it was a little bit more active there, we had a tornado or two in Saskatchewan.”

Saturday evening lightning strikes were visible in the Red Deer sky, but were far enough away not to bring rain on the city.

“The amount of lightning isn’t forecast in advance,” said McMurtry. “We have a pretty good idea when there is a risk of thunderstorms, but we don’t know prior to what the amount of lightning in any given event. We know there’s going to be a thunderstorm but sometimes there are lots of lightning strikes and other times there are just a few strikes.”

A nine year study running from 1999 to 2008 showed Red Deer as having the most cloud to ground lightning flashes per square kilometre per year in Alberta.

“Not quite as active in Central Alberta, but you’re right in the zone where it is typically the most active in the province.”

McMurtry said the storms were generally small and localized over the weekend with no large storm cells moving through Alberta.

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