Hailstorms more severe this year

Fast and furious characterizes July hailstorms across the Prairies.

“Almost one storm every day,” said Rick Omelchenko, president of the Canadian Crop Hail Association.

“The hailstorms are smaller in size but more severe in the centre and then taper off really quickly,” he said July 29.

“Some crops are smashed to pieces. There’s been some places where crops have been wiped out.”

He said past seasons have seen hailstorms that cast a large swath and cover all three provinces, but this year has been different.

“Those seem to be not as frequent as they used to be. Now it seems to be many of them, many areas, many spots, not very large, but very severe in the middle,” he said.

With all three provinces ahead of the norm, Saskatchewan has seen the most storms with durum crops taking the brunt of hail damage.

July hailstorms have also brought excess moisture, but heavy winds are also playing a significant factor in crop development.

“This last month, it’s been windy almost every day and then really heavy winds. There’s been damage from wind, flooding, excess moisture, disease — all kinds of things that are impairing the crops that are coming,” he said.

Many crops damaged by hail during the first half of July were deferred from being written off, but the current heat wave is quickly changing that scenario.

“They’re easy to determine now compared to what it was two weeks ago, where the plants were in a different stage of growth and they had a chance of recovery, but they also had a chance of getting worse. Now the stages of growth are to a point where we shouldn’t have to defer nothing, where what you see is what you get,” he said.

“The bruises and cut-offs and stuff trying to recover just won’t because a 30-degree heat is going to make it worse. So a deferral process instead of a settlement earlier on is probably in the farmers’ advantage with this heat.”

The high number of storms has left insurance adjusters scrambling to keep up with the number of claims across the Prairies this month.

There were 2,000 claims two weeks ago and 1,000 last week, and another 1,000 are expected this week throughout the provinces.

“We are ahead of schedule on the average number of claims, but the payouts so far to date are kind of moderate,” he said.

However, with the recent heat wave, Omelchenko thinks that’s about to change.

“I have a feeling that once the deferrals start coming through, it may be increasing,” he said.

Contact william.dekay@producer.com

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