(Rural Roots Canada) – Alberta is no stranger to wild weather.
But a series of intense storms that rolled across the province between July 25 and July 31, bringing heavy wind, rain, and hail, caused considerable damage in dozens of communities, damaging homes, property, and crops.
Crops affected by the weather include barley, canola, corn, oats, wheat and more.
According to the Canadian Crop Hail Association, insurance companies continue to assess hailstorm damage and sort through more than 1,200 claims.
As part of the investigation, the CCHA suggests growers leave adequate samples of damaged crops so insurance companies can assess the toll.
The violent storms of late July are just one example of the wild weather we’ve seen this summer.
With harvest season here, Rural Roots Canada spoke with meteorologist David Spence about the weather we’ve seen and what we can expect as we head into the fall.
The storms that blew through Central Alberta were violent and intense. But overall, Spence says it didn’t appear we experienced as many thunderstorms.
“Anecdotally, there were not as many storms perhaps as you’d find in an average year, but the storms that did happen were fairly strong,” says Spence.
While the number of storms may have been down, the impact of those we did experience was enormous.
Alberta is known for its hailstorms, a common occurrence in our province every summer. Many saw the pictures of cars stuck on highway 2, north of Innisfail, bombarded by hailstones ranging from golf ball to tennis ball in size. This year, Alberta managed to break a record for hailstones.
“Markerville, in Red Deer County, set a record for the largest hailstone ever measured,” according to Spence.
“The previous record was set in Saskatchewan in 1973, with that hailstone weighing 290 grams. The Markerville hailstone weighed 292 grams, just edging it out and breaking an almost 50-year-old record.”
It wasn’t just hailstones and thunderstorms that took a toll on crops.
The summer heat was rough some days, but Spence says it wasn’t as bad as we’ve seen in the past.
“It was warm, no question about that, but it looks like temperatures in Alberta were only about a degree above average,” he notes.
Some parts of the province, however, experienced more heat than others.
“Medicine Hat had 14 days in July with temperatures reaching 30 or higher while Red Deer didn’t have any days that reached 30 degrees,” says Spence.
Drought conditions remain in some parts of Southern Alberta around the U.S. border. That has affected crop yields.
Central Alberta was gifted with a lot of precipitation this summer.
According to Spence, Central Alberta towns with above-average rainfall throughout the summer include Rocky Mountain House, Sundre, Didsbury, and through to Leduc. Wetaskiwin was the wettest by far, at 115% of average.
Parts of Southern Alberta were also affected by higher than average precipitation.
“We’re used to drought or dry conditions from Lethbridge out to Coronation. In July, at least, it was probably the wettest part of the province,” says Spence.
“In comparing the rainfall total to the long term average, that area had more than 200% of average rainfall from Lethbridge to Brooks and up to Coronation.”
As we head into the harvest, Spence says we should see the number of storms and severe storms diminish through the second half of August, but it’s going to be a hot one out in the field.
“It looks like temperatures will be high, warmer than average, could have widespread highs in the 30s. However, it doesn’t look like there’s potential for severe storms,” says Spence.
“It looks like it’s going to be good harvest weather from here on in.”
And that’s always good news for producers.