It’s been a road trip like no other for Courtenay mayor Bob Wells and family after hail, “probably the size of grapefruits,” came falling from the skies outside Red Deer, Alta., wreaking havoc.
On Monday along the Queen Elizabeth II Highway, Wells’ mother’s van was pummeled by hail that smashed the windshield, sunroofs and rear passenger windows and riddled the exterior with dents.
It was an ordeal that initially prompted Wells to pull over and stop along the shoulder of the road before telling his family to take cover and wrap themselves in blankets.
“The hail just didn’t let up and, in fact, if we didn’t hold up the sunroof cover, the hail would have actually just blown through that as well,” Wells said in a Facebook video posted shortly after the storm.
“Luckily, our vehicle is basically drivable except for the fact that it did take out most of the windshield, but there is a spot on the driver’s side where you can actually see out of it,” he said.
In an interview with CHEK News, Wells said the whole experience left his family “very shook up.”
While the van is “probably a write-off,” he’s just happy his loved ones are safe and sound and notes that anyone not taking shelter at the time of the storm likely would have been “severely hurt.”
That’s because, while the pellets Wells later captured on camera were “a little bit bigger than a golf ball,” they were “probably the size of grapefruits when taking out the windshield,” he recalled.
Environment and Climate Change Canada Meteorologist Sara Hoffman says although the storm that passed through the Rocky Mountain House and Red Deer areas Monday wasn’t record breaking, the size of the hail was bigger than expected.
The weather agency issued a tornado watch in the afternoon that warned large hail might fall from the sky later in the evening, with hail the size of baseballs to dimes also falling in Innisfil, Pine Lake, Condor, Rimbey and Ferrier, according to Hoffman.
“Looking at the row of the cars that were pulled over, we were probably, I guess, right at one of the worst spots. Most vehicles that we went by didn’t look nearly as beat up as our’s did,” Wells told CHEK News.
“Our windshield was completely caved in and, of course, because of the glass they use in windshields, it’s meant that it doesn’t shatter,” he added.
“But still, lots of shards of glass were flying around.”
Amid the aftermath, Wells was able to rent a car, meaning he and his family are back on the road and Manitoba bound for a family reunion.
—With files from The Canadian Press.