Hail wreaks havoc on Foothills

Foothills: Farmers seeing total losses on crops

By: Bruce Campbell<br />Roxanne Blackwell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014 09:38 am

Blackie area farmer Glenn Groeneveld shows how high his wheat crop was before the Aug. 8 hailstorm cut it in half. He said he had 100 per cent loss on his 800 acres of wheat.
Blackie area farmer Glenn Groeneveld shows how high his wheat crop was before the Aug. 8 hailstorm cut it in half. He said he had 100 per cent loss on his 800 acres of wheat.

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A Blackie area farmer is going to have a quick harvest this season.

“I got half my harvest done last night,” Glenn Groeneveld quipped at the Okotoks Dawgs game Saturday night. “I got hailed out on 800 acres.”

A hailstorm that swept through the Gladys Ridge area knocked down all 800 acres of Groeneveld’s wheat early Friday evening.

“We had a pretty good crop coming — it looked good because we thought we would be getting if off early,” Groeneveld said. “It was about three feet tall and there’s nothing left. This is 100 per cent loss. I will probably put my cows in once I get it written off.”

He estimated hail stones were as large as the size of a loonie and he timed the storm at 11 minutes long.

Groeneveld planned to call in hail adjustors for his insurance on Aug. 11.

“It is what it is,” Groeneveld said. “It will pay the bills, but we won’t get rich off it. We’ll tighten our belts for a year and do it again next year… I can’t change it and life goes on.”

Groeneveld knew something was up when the temperature dropped at about 5 p.m. and he took a quick glance to the sky.

“I could see the black sky coming and I got on the computer, saw it was coming and I had a bad feeling about it,” Groeneveld said. “We got the vehicles in and then I watched out the window as it started to smash things. While you can bring in a truck, a farmer is just hoping to dodge a white bullet in regards to his crops.

“You kind of hope it is going to miss you, but if it misses you it is just going to hit your neighbours. You wish it would just go away.”

Groeneveld still has some work to do. He still has about 800 acres of canola and some peas he can harvest later in the month.

Groeneveld isn’t alone. The Agriculture Financial Services Corporation said they were swamped with farmers who called, faxed, and showed up in person to put in their claims. From the Vulcan branch office, Debra Wyatt said the two storms on Friday have kept them busy sorting things out.

“We’ve got quite a few claims, they range anywhere from light damage to 100 per cent,” she said.

“It came from Okotoks, north of Blackie and kind of went in a strip towards Arrowwood and Milo.”

Jay McFarlane at McFarlane Agencies in Okotoks said they’ve been bombarded with hail claims on personal property and vehicles from town residents.

“When you get the size of hail that had been falling Friday in particular, then you’re definitely going to get some catastrophic losses,” he said.

But the insurance industry is no stranger to the damage that hail can cause, which is why it’s the main sponsor of the hail seeding program, which flies planes into the clouds to disperse a chemical which reduces the size of hail before it hits the ground.

“The industry as a whole has certainly made attempts to react to the known perils that are costing insurance companies so much money.”

McFarlane noted that while the hail suppression team was dispatched for this storm, there’s only so much money and resources available, and the focus is usually on protecting Calgary.

“The major centers are the ones in particular that are focused on. In our case they might have missed that or didn’t have the resources to get to it in time,” he said. “That just reiterates the need for that and more planes and more investment in trying to minimize damage moving forward.”

Right now, McFarlane said they’re trying to play catch-up with the claims and keeping their fingers crossed for no more major storms.


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