Alberta Foothills Weather

August 9 – Hail track tour

A benign week around here, 22mm of rain and almost cold (10C) to start then gradually warming to a mild weekend. Not hot, not cold, just nice weather for touring.

Touring we did. Most of the weekend was spent out looking at the incredible swath of damage from the August 3 early morning squall. We certainly made a wrong turn by going north last Monday, the real nasty stuff started just south of #54 at the Burnstick Lake turnoff west of Caroline, and does not stop for the 100km(60 miles) we followed it, all the way to Carstairs.

Saturday was a full day of scouring up and down every little road and goat track along the path from just east of the James river store to Carstairs. We approached from the east, on #592 where there was no damage until the naked trees came into view. Suddenly there was a mile wide path of downed trees, extreme tree strippage, barley salad, and a grain bin flung a quarter section length before being smashed into some trees, it’s top crunched up in the middle of the field a half mile back. Hundreds of trees down there in just a small area. All the way down to Sundre had been hammered, crops were still identifiable, but worthless.
Sundre itself was a surprise, we were not expecting to see that much damage there, as the main core was a lot further east just a few miles north. Almost every new house on the north side of town had damage of some kind, many had more than a few broken windows, and everybody’s vinyl siding was a complete mess. As we drove around town it was interesting to see baskets hanging with flowers still in them, not a lot of heavy chew in town, but look closer and most cars are wearing dimples – lots of them.
Thinking the damage would likely taper off to the west we went out to see the new houses on that side, and they had been golfballed also, lots of siding damage out there.
We headed out the east side of Sundre towards the golf course to meet up with the heavy path we left on the north side of the river, saw very little damage along the river road, but as soon as we started back east up the hill, there were trees down everywhere and the chew began again.

Some very bad shred between Forest Heights Golf Club and the Red Deer River. The wind was clearly roaring through this area and up the hill to the golf course, hundreds of trees snapped off or uprooted, completely destroyed crops. The path of the main core went right over the course, they were busy cleaning up so we didn’t stop to ask how many trees they lost, but you could see a lot had been downed. The area of heavy chew seemed to tighten up here for a bit, we got out of the bad stuff almost immediately east of the golf course, turned south and quickly found it again.
After it came off of the golf course hill, it was really mad, the next 5-6 miles took a wicked beating, we found one crop halfway up the next hill that we could not identify, nothing left but straw bits.
The top of Eagle hill was the worst we saw Saturday, one farm had been almost completely stripped bare, hundreds of trees blown over and crops around there hammered flat.
After somehow missing Camp Harmattan to the east as it hopped over the Little Red Deer River valley and up the hill, it exploded out onto the flatlands and widened out a lot. We went west to #22 to see how far the heavy but not severe damage was, it hadn’t stopped by then so we went south to find the edge, which was about 6 miles down. Came back up north and went across country back east looking for the core, which we found again just east of Harmattan hall. Total crop loss from there to #766 and south, up to a 6 mile wide swath of completely eradicated crops, then a few miles either side of heavily damaged crop, likely unusable even for feed. This continued all the way to Carstairs.
We decided to go though Didsbury to Carstairs, and were surprised to see no damage anywhere we looked, even though there was heavy damage just a few miles west. We didn’t scope out the whole town so there may have been some we missed.
The core by this time was much smaller, we crossed it again on highway 2A about halfway down to Carstairs, and the crops were actually starting to look better when we pulled into town. We thought maybe we had imagined reading about Carstairs getting cored? Nope.
Carstairs got it good. As soon as you could see a house, you could see damage. On every house!
Literally. Everywhere you looked driving around town, through the subdivisions and trailer parks, there were holes in the siding, broken windows, boarded up windows, glass in the street from broken car windows, and every car in town that didn’t have a garage looked like a golfball. 432 dimples.

This is the biggest hail swath I have ever studied, I wonder just how many acres were flattened, how many trees killed off, how many birds got whacked? Amazing stuff.

Also amazing, you can see the track this nasty thing laid down from space.
The first image below is from MODIS at 12:30 this afternoon, and clearly shows a large scar across southern Alberta from about the Red Deer River all the way down to almost Medicine Hat, a track almost 230 miles long.
That’s a lotta acres!

The 2nd image below is a clickable map(1.3mb) of what we saw on our tour of the track, click the camera icons to see a photo from that location.

MODIS image from August 9, 2009090809 Hailstorm track map
Grain bin smashed into the trees east of James River Bridge - Aug.9, 2009Hail damage in SundreTrees stripped bare on Eagle hill - Aug.9, 2009Hail damage in Carstairs - Aug.9, 2009

7 Responses to “August 9 – Hail track tour”

  1. 1
    Brandon Says:

    Nice work Pat. Another 3 years for the next one?!?!

  2. 2
    Dann Cianca Says:

    Yikes! That was quite the storm!!

  3. 3
    anthony L Says:

    Hey there Pat, those are just amazing shots. Yesterday the 9th we received another good hailstorm from Crossfield and Airdrie out to Kathryn and Strathmore area. Pea to marble size only this time. But got close to 20mm in 10-15 minutes. The only thunderstorm in the province yesterday.

  4. 4
    PB Says:

    Thanks guys. I hope it’s a lot longer than 3 years before another one comes across here.
    Anthony that was a nice lookin storm on radar did you get a photo? We weren’t far from to the north of it, could see nothing but schmeg. I thought it was going to die at #22 like the rest so we kept watching west of here for the next one.
    Did Carstairs get it again?

  5. 5
    Tim Osborne Says:

    Wow, that truly is amazing. We are well over $100,000 in damage to vehicles alone. Every one of them that has been assessed has been declared a write off. I’m heading back to the cabin on Thursday to pick some stuff up. It will be interesting to get a second look at the damage – this time with a much clearer head!

  6. 6
    Tim Osborne Says:

    Just as a follow up, we talked to the farmer who owns the land on the other side of the James River. He had six calves killed by the storm and had to put down an additional three cows due to their injuries. His 90 foot trailer was picked up and moved several feet. His crop adjuster told him that it was in fact a tornado. Crazy stuff.

  7. 7
    Sheldon Aarts Says:

    I remember that night I was living below the eagle hill tower on the west side. Scary as hell. Golf ball sized hail and no lie non stop lightning!!!! Like 1 to 2 seconds between flashing. Makes you really think twice about ol’ mother nature! Exspect the unexspected!!!! Oh and that picture of the pile of logs? That farmer was pushing them down with his cat days before that. But take a walk ontop of the hill for real sights it’s crazy!

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