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Residual effects of disastrous hailstorm felt by northeast Calgary residents after a full year

Residents in northeast Calgary continue to pick up the pieces of their lives as the one year anniversary of the disastrous hailstorm rolls around, while the City of Calgary sets its sights on the future, creating a precautionary program.

The June 13 storm effects have been amplified by COVID-19 and the “improper” amount of government support.

“Many of the homes are still being repaired, we’re seeing siding and roofs for homes still being repaired and for many that was due to the pandemic, delays in supplies that labor, and the time it took to process many of those insurance claims,” Ward 5 Coun. George Chahal said.

The storm racked up more than $1.2 billion insured damages, officially making it the fourth costliest natural disaster in Canadian history.

Khalil Karbani, leader of the Calgary Hailstorm Action Committee, said tried to notify as many people as possible within the affected area not to take the settlement that the insurance companies were giving out.

“They were technically giving out less than what it would cost to fix your house up,” Karbani said.

“History has shown that every four years, some big disasters happened in Calgary. We don’t want the insurance companies to come to anyone in three years or four years to say that the work that you’ve done is substandard, and we cannot cover that work. … [We are saying] pay your deductibles, do what you have to do but get them to do the work, just so they can’t turn around and say, this work was substandard.”

Karbani said the volunteer-ran action committee was successful, managing to put together 30 groups to support the public. They could have done more if the government had even acknowledged them.

Government involvement in 2020

Karbani, made various attempts to get more help from the various levels of government.

“We were trying to ask the provincial government to work with us [and] insurance companies to make sure our insurance premiums do not go up. [But] they have gone up – about 20 per cent from last year to this year.”

“So that’s a huge amount to swallow, with everything else that’s happening with our current lives, you know, and then insurance companies justify it by saying well in Alberta, they give out more money than what they’ve achieved.”

Houses are still being repaired in northeast Calgary, a year after the devastating hailstorm. KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

On June 25th, 2020, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced the storm fell under the Disaster Relief Program (DRP), which left residents confused as to what could actually be claimed.

The DRP was only applicable for overland flood victims, which accounted for less than one per cent of the homes that were damaged.

“I think they were just trying to make themselves look good,” Karbani said.

“Less than 300 homes had applied for that grant out of 35,000. … It didn’t help 99 per cent of the homeowners. Even outside of that, it was something like a 40-page grant application that you had to fill out, which could have intimidated a lot of people from even trying.”

Khalis Ahmed, a Hailstorm Action Committee volunteer with friends and family that were affected, agrees that not enough was done to support residents.

Although the natural disaster was no ones fault, all levels of government have fallen short on their efforts to help those affected, Ahmed said.

Accumulated damage

Most of the physical damage has been repaired, but the struggles persist.

“There’s some people definitely struggling. We’ve had a terrible economy for a number of years, COVID came in, and then this came in,” Karbani said.

“A lot of people have loaded their credit cards just to get their house done which is their biggest asset of their life … Every single person that I know has had to take money out of their pockets to get it back to where it was.”

The siding on Karbani’s house is still being repaired after the storm. KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Ahmed said the storm caused extensive damage to more than just physical belongings and property. The government’s lacklustre attempt to aid those affected made many residents feel that they were being treated differently than other Canadians.

“It caused much more damage to humanity, with the pandemic, job situations, social distancing and [the] helpless situation, [their] decisions broke many hearts,” Ahmed said.

“I hope the government will take some initiative, so they feel included in our society – so they don’t feel isolated or treated differently.”

Planning ahead

The City of Calgary created the Resilient Roofing Rebate Program in response to the damage the hailstorm caused Calgarians.

The first stage of the three-year phased program opened to eligible homeowners on June 1st, 2021.

This gives residents who have been directly impacted by the hailstorm an opportunity to build an impact class-four hail-resistant roof on their homes, that the City would provide a rebate to help offset some of the costs, Coun. Chahal said

The program opens to all eligible homeowners on Jan. 1, 2022, the goal being to protect more Calgarians from future impacts from storms.

In order to make communities able to withstand these kinds of major climate events, improvements to building codes need to be made.

“The provincial government does need to work closer with municipalities to address these issues of building codes and offering incentives to homeowners who are willing and who want to build a more resilient housing product,” Chahal said.

“The support that the City of Calgary has given to residents here and work closely with insurance companies to make sure that we have better processes to ensure that customers are treated and treated fairly, and that we continue to work on, to find ways to reduce insurance losses, and to ensure that premiums remain affordable for our residents as well.”