‘Damage is extraordinary:’ Calgary mayor wants government help after hailstorm

‘Damage is extraordinary:’ Calgary mayor wants government help after hailstorm

CALGARY — The mayor of Calgary wants disaster relief from other orders of government after a powerful hailstorm shredded vinyl siding and shattered windows in several neighbourhoods.

Naheed Nenshi estimates Saturday’s lashing caused $1 billion or more in damage and hit tens of thousands of homes, including his own in the city’s hard-hit northeast.

“My house was bashed up pretty badly — lots of holes in the siding. I thought I had it pretty bad and I was allowed to feel bad for myself for a minute or two, until I had the opportunity to see what had happened to other people,” he said Monday.

“We are really in a place where the damage is extraordinary.”

Emergency chief Tom Sampson said some of the hail was as big as tennis balls.

The Calgary Fire Department responded to as many calls in a six-hour span as it would in an entire day as streets were deluged. It conducted 23 water rescues, mostly of people trapped in their vehicles. No injuries were reported.

Coun. George Chahal said no community was spared in his ward in the city’s northeast corner.

“I’ve never seen so much damage within a block of homes — siding shredded, eavestroughs, downspouts damaged,” he said of his tour of the Taradale neighbourhood right after the storm. “I think every car on the block had windows broken.”

Saddle Ridge to the north was hit with so much hail that roads were impassable and it looked like a snowstorm had just hit, Chahal added.

The area is home to many new Canadians, so the councillor said the city is hoping to help with translation and other services so residents can navigate insurance claims.

In the legislature on Monday, NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley urged Premier Jason Kenney and his United Conservatives to declare a disaster so Calgarians could access relief funds.

Kenney said he had been in contact with Nenshi.

“I’ve not heard a request for a disaster declaration from the municipality, but we will continue to stay in touch with them,” the premier said.

He added that the Alberta Emergency Management Agency is conducting hydrology tests to determine whether the storm could be considered extraordinary. That, together with a request from the city, could lead to a disaster declaration.

Epic Roofing & Exteriors was scrambling to keep up with calls for repairs since the storm, said founder Merlin Bartel.

“We get a new phone call about every 90 seconds right now, and so we’re turning a lot of folks away,” he said Monday.

Bartel estimated the company had received 400 to 500 inquiries by Monday — compared to 200 to 300 calls during a regular week.

The COVID-19 pandemic means more people are at home and wanting to get started on repairs right away, he added. But the pandemic and the broader economic downturn have led contractors to downsize, reducing resources available for the surge of new work.

Bartel said it’s the worst hailstorm he can recall since 2012, when many homes and the University of Calgary campus were damaged.

The storm on Saturday was unique because of how long it lasted, he said.

“Often you have storms that go hard for a few minutes, but this one was just pounding in some areas for up to 15, 20 minutes.”

Rob de Pruis with the Insurance Bureau of Canada said it’s too soon to say how much insurable damage the storm caused, but it was significant.

Most home and auto insurance policies cover hail and wind damage, he said, and homeowners should document everything with photos and keep all receipts.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not slowing adjusters’ work, de Pruis added.

“Insurance companies have plans in place to ensure the safety of their staff and the safety of their policyholders, when there are people that are inspecting the properties and completing the necessary repair work.”

— With files from Dean Bennett in Edmonton

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 15, 2020

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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