Dubbed the “Gladiator/El-Destructo” Rachel Gillooly in Moore Falls said she’d never seen a hailstone shaped like the one she grabbed. “I thought this thing belongs at the end of a chain. Gladiators right? Knock someone off a horse.” /Photo courtesy of Rachel Gillooly

‘Extraordinary’ weather hits county with hail

By Sue Tiffin

Published July 31 2018

Haliburton County residents are assessing damages and sharing storm stories after the area was pummelled with torrential rain gusty winds and golf ball-sized hail last Thursday.

Environment Canada issued a severe thunderstorm watch for Haliburton County at 2:48 p.m. on July 26 that stayed in place until the early evening as approximately 23 millilitres of rain fell on the region.

The storm brought winds that toppled trees and hail that dented cars smashed windshields shredded awnings and destroyed vegetable gardens.

“Yesterday was extraordinary because hail is not that common” said Gerald Cheng acting warning preparedness meteorologist Environment and Climate Change Canada on July 27. “If we get hail usually it’s pea-sized smaller sizes but we’ve got reports of golf ball-sized hail larger than a toonie – then it’s sort of an extraordinary event for us.”

Cheng said that in preliminary review of the storm large hail was not reported in Haliburton County after the thunderstorm winded down.

Toonie-sized hail was reported from London to Toronto and golf-ball sized hail about 4.5 centimetres was reported in Birr north of London. In the evening hours a tornado warning due to radar was issued around the London and Woodstock area.

“When we went into yesterday there were basically two threats that were the main threats” he said. “It was the gusty winds possibly damaging gusts and also hail. There were very few reports around [Haliburton’s] neck of the woods in terms of actual gusts. We did get some hail reports they were around Haliburton which was from nickel to quarter size around 2.1 cm to 2.4 cm.”

“It started off as rain and then it went from rain to small almost marble-sized hail then it just kept getting bigger and bigger” said Chantel Smith a Minden resident. “I had one a little bit bigger than a golf ball in my hand that was the biggest we saw. Then the trees started blowing around and the weather got really grey and dark. There were really high winds and the trees were just folding in half.

We grabbed our kids at that point –the weather just went crazy – and then at that point we ran to the basement because it literally looked like there was going to be like it was the start of the tornado.”

Anticipating a possible tornado due to the intense nature of the storm Smith said she kept her curious kids back from windows when the hail started loudly striking the glass.

“I was so scared” she said. “I’ve never been so scared in my life … I’m going to be 29 and as far as I can remember the way it was yesterday was the craziest I’ve ever seen it. I was shaking. It went from just raining to quickly hail and then bigger hail bigger hail and then all of a sudden it just went nuts for 15 minutes at least. We were panicking. Then the trees were falling over in the park.”

Larry Moynes at Ridgewood Ford Sales Ltd. in Minden was kept busy the day after the storm estimating the damage caused to the entire inventory of 145 cars in the parking lot.

“They will be all fixed and then they will be all sold with further price reduction from the employee pricing” he said. “Insurance covers the cost to fix the cars it doesn’t cover what we’re going to have to reduce them to move them.”

Besides dealing with the insurance claim Moynes was busy with people bringing their damaged cars to him for advice.

“I don’t know whether it was maybe not quite as severe on our lot – it was severe enough that it dented all the cars – but we’ve had customers come in today with far more damage than what’s happened to our cars” he said.

It’s expected to take three to four weeks to repair the inventory which can all be fixed with paintless dent repair without a need for paintwork.

In Haliburton 80 of the booths at the Haliburton Art and Craft Festival scheduled for the weekend had been set up.

“The main effect was the deluge and its effect on the park – grassy areas and centre path of the flower beds – where we siphoned water all night into the sewer since the accumulation could not be pumped out with our sump pump [due to] no hydro” said Laurie Jones Rails End Gallery curator. “Resourceful volunteers and staff and artists who can take any situation in stride were super.”

Panic struck some of the campers at Sleepy Hollow Campground in West Guilford according to Sharon Byng who owns the business with her husband.

“That was a crazy storm we had” she said. “It came out of nowhere. It was really weird because it was like the calm before the storm. All of a sudden it got really still and there was no breeze or anything. It just started to mist a little bit and before you knew it there was this golf-ball sized ice coming out of the sky.”

About 20 awnings attached to trailers in the park were ripped apart and cars suffered damage.

“Every car that’s in here and I’m looking at about 40 of them out my window all have major dents in them” she said the next day.

“It was a little bit of chaos for a bit but quickly as soon as it stopped it was just laughter and everyone was just enjoying the freak of weather” said Byng. “It was really neat because afterwards [the hail] stayed on the ground for quite awhile so all of my clients the little kids were out there having snowball fights throwing them around it was really fun. It was neat to see the kids on their Slip and Slide going into a pool of ice cubes.”

Byng said that at one point the hail was falling with such force it was bouncing three or four feet back off her steel roof.

“But nobody was hurt that’s the main thing” she said. “No trees seem to have come down. It was mostly car damage. And my pretty golf cart.”

Earlier last week two storms had measured 10 millilitres and 33 millilitres of rainfall effectively ending a fire ban on the morning of July 26 that had been in place since July 9.

“So it’s been a very rainy week which is good because I think for a moment there we were all complaining about the lack of rain” said Cheng.

Curry Chevrolet Buick GMC Ltd. in Haliburton is hosting a dent repair clinic with Dent Dynamics Inc. at the dealership’s location at 5065 County Rd 21 for the next few months to help car owners assess and repair the damage to their vehicles. Call 705-457-2100 for more information.