Alberta Foothills Weather

July 8 – Hail week

No shortage of activity for the first week of July in Alberta and hail has been the story almost every day.
Stifling heat and humidex numbers over 40 for a lot of the province kept me in the nice cool basement on the 2nd, watching a few nice cells try to bust through the thermonuclear cap that was parked over southern Alberta.

Some early activity on the 4th got me out by Rimbey for a look at some interesting bits pushing around in the Medicine Hills before the guts fell out, unloading a pile of hail between Gull Lake and Rimbey and casting off a chilly gust in all directions. It stretched out into a line that eventually pushed all the way out to the foothills as it moved south, but with cold outflow way out in front of the goodies I bailed out at Innisfail and got home in time to catch the prettiest storm I’ve seen this year, on the twitternet. A classic supercell had rolled out of the hills west of Nanton, and the photos were flowing, like this one. Awesome but too far away.
July 5th was loaded with hail for southern Alberta. Airdrie got a taste first, then Lethbridge got it pretty good, then Taber got dumped on, photos flowing into the twitterverse of cars floating around in hail swamps.

The biggest story of the weather week came on the 6th when what had to be a green monster came roaring out of the hills and drew a bead on Airdrie. The photos that started to show up on the #abstorm feed were quite a surprise, it suddenly looked like winter in Airdrie, then photos from Irricana started to show up. A foot of hail covered the landscape, leaving a 60-70 km long stripe up to a km wide that could be seen from space. I was glad I had things to do that day in town and didn’t get caught up in that crazy thing.

We went down for a tour of the scene the next day and wow what a mess. Expecting a crowd of other interested folks out for a look, we went down hwy#21 and in from the east, first crossing the path a few miles south of hwy9 where it had mowed over a hutterite colony and mulched the crops pretty good. It’s pretty easy to identify the edges of a wicked hailstorm when it crosses a highway, the piles of gravel spewed out onto the pavement were unmissable. We stopped by to visit our old friend the XSM RADAR site to see if it had been bruised but everything was looking healthy around there. We came across spots that looked like they had been touched on the drive north from xsm but then we found the south edge of the hail trail. You smell it first, freshly cut hay.

It was 19 hours after the storm had cleared, but rivers were flowing through fields like it had just stopped. We found the north edge and then headed west toward Irricana, only seeing a few little hail drifts along the way.
A pretty amazing scene awaited right at Irricana, there was still a lot of hail laying around, feet of it in drifts and ditches full of it, 20 hours later after most of a 20C day. The ditches had been mowed by the hail, piles of shredded grass on the shoulders of the roads. We took a spin back east on twp 274, the core had gone right down it, making a terrible mess of the many trees that line the road. Crops along this road were completely smashed to bits, mostly unidentifiable, looking like they had just been harvested, nothing left but the stubs of the rows that suggested it wasn’t a hay field. Although we didn’t find anything larger than about 10mm in the deep drifts, there were a few houses along 274 that had certainly been whacked with close to golfball size, holes in the siding tell the tale. A lot of debarking in spots along the road, some places worse than others, and quite a few sore looking birds. I can’t even imagine how many did not make it through that maelstrom.

Probably the most surprising sight was the town of Irricana itself. The amount of leaf shred laying in the streets and stuck to people’s houses and roofs was really something to see. Drifts of hail were still everywhere, kids were out playing in it, throwing it around. One would think there would be insane property damage to see, but no.
We saw one hole in a piece of siding on a building on the northeast side and that was it, could have been 5 years old too. We had a good look around to try and find another but could not, no broken windows, no dents in any cars we looked at. Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but normally when you enter a town that has just been run over, these signs are everywhere and hard to miss. Irricana got very lucky from what we saw.

Lethbridge has been getting more than it’s share of the hard white stuff this year, they got covered with it on the 6th after Irricana got theirs,from a different storm, then another big dose of it early on the 8th.
That’s a lot of stormin’ already and the season is only a week old… what’s next?
Tomorrow is a day to watch but we may be capped out again with warm air aloft pushing in during the day.

July 2 Carvel RADAR loop
July 4 Strathmore RADAR loop
July 5 Strathmore RADAR loop
July 6 Strathmore RADAR loop
July 8 Strathmore RADAR loop

Darkling shadows northwest of Bentley, AB July 4, 2013
Hail stripe across Irricana visible from space July 6, 2013 Hail track over Irricana taken by Cpt. Daryl Frank from Jazz Airline approaching YYC July 6, 2013
Hail damage tour around Irricana, AB July 7, 2013

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