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Natural Hazards

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 29–75 | Cite as

Urban hailstorms: a view from Alberta

  • Robert B. Charlton
  • Bradley M. Kachman
  • Lubomir Wojtiw
Article

Abstract

Urban hailstorms are rarely studied in detail. This work documents five urban storms in Alberta where damage has, on three occasions, set the record for Canada's most costly natural disaster. Information from newspapers, insurance companies, and disaster assistance programs was utilized to supplement meteorological records and information obtained from public surveys.

The record-breaking hail swath which accompanied the 1987 Edmonton tornado was mapped using over 800 responses to an unprecedented newspaper survey. Tennis ball sized hail struck 125 km2 of the city. Record-sized hailstones for Alberta were collected. Citizens' measurements of giant hailstones were compared to laboratory measurements. The rural storms were tracked using lightning detector information and damage was mapped using crop insurance and disaster assistance claims. The tornado-bearing storm was found to have a unique track.

A late-season hailstorm which struck Calgary in 1991 was mapped using homeowner insurance claims organized by postal areas. Nine out of thirty areas had claims rates exceeding 50%, mainly for shingle replacement. Experiences of claims adjustors and an informal public survey were also utilized. Rural storms were mapped using weather radar and crop losses. The radar beam was strongly attenuated when it passed through hail-bearing storms and, thus, its ability to detect large hail was compromised.

Weather conditions, urban and rural damaged areas, and insurance payments were compared for all five local hailstorms. These storms were discussed within the context of the long history of Alberta hail research and current trends in technology implementation. Forecasting of these hailstorms using conventional severe weather indicators was difficult in Calgary because of that city's proximity to the mountains. Hailstorms that struck Munich, Denver, and Toowoomba (Australia) were also discussed, and the hailstones collected from the great Munich storm were compared to those collected from the Edmonton storms.

Key words

Hail tornado lightning radar Alberta cities insurance public survey questionnaire record hailstones giant hailstones hail swath hail forecasts crop damage disaster assistance 

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert B. Charlton
    • 1
  • Bradley M. Kachman
    • 1
  • Lubomir Wojtiw
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Meteorology, Department of GeographyUniversity of AlbertaAlbertaCanada

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