Hail season looms around the corner and over crops

Local farmers are hoping for the best through hail season now that crops are in the ground are beginning to grow.

There has already been some speculation that 2011 will be an active hail year. This is a threat to crops as a hailstorm can often decimate entire fields of growth.

“A lot of farmers have been telling me they’re concerned this could be a big hail year because of the extra moisture we’ve had across the province,” said Brian Tainsh, provincial adjusting manager with Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC).

AFSC is the crown corporation that administers crop and hail insurance in Alberta on behalf of the provincial and federal governments.

Tainsh explained that previous experience has shown that with as much moisture as is present in the ground, hail can end up being in abundant supply.

Geoff Strong, a meteorologist and adjunct professor at the University of Alberta agrees that the increased moisture may increase the risk of hail.

With Strong’s studies in thunderstorms and hail formation in the province, he said the problem is that the more damp an area is, the more likely they are to see hail.

“With the soil moisture we have I think we’ll see some fairly active hailstorms throughout the summer.”

Strong’s prediction is that most of the hail activity in the province will occur in Central and Southern Alberta where it is significantly more saturated.

Alberta sees more hail than anywhere else in the country and within the province sees the majority of the storms in the foothills.

Strong points out that even last year’s cool, wet weather produced large amounts of hail. Even temperatures in the low-to-mid 20’s are enough to cause severe weather.

“No part of the province is safe from hail. Even in drought years we’ve seen hail from along the periphery of extremely dry zones,” said Strong.

Last year, Red Deer County saw the same kinds of hail that the majority of the province did which ended up causing $164 million in hail damage.

Some farmers ensure their livelihoods by taking out additional hail damage insurance once their crops begin growing.

Many crops can be worth large amounts of money per quarter and if a farmer is hailed out it can amount to an incredible loss for them.

Tainsh says AFSC is ready this year by hiring an additional 10 people. Every one is equipped with GPS units and laptops so they can file claims from the field.

The goal is to make the process even more efficient so that farmers can get paid more quickly.

For more information call the AFSC Call Centre at 1-877-899-2372.