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Hail suppression team unusually busy with southern Alberta storms

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WATCH ABOVE: Alberta has been hammered by hail this summer, but the insurance industry believes it could have been far worse without cloud seeding. A team based at Red Deer Regional Airport tracks storms cells and flies around the edges of them to suppress hail. Global’s Mia Sosiak reports – Aug 3, 2016

It’s been a really busy year for the pilots and meteorologists who work to suppress hail in southern and central Alberta.

The Alberta Hail Suppression Project covers the area between Calgary and Red Deer, from the Foothills to Drumheller. They have seeded clouds, on average, three times a day on 31 days so far in summer 2016.

READ MORE: More rain in August after record wet July in Calgary

The team’s five planes are equipped with silver iodide flares. When ignited, the flares release smoke filled with the compound.

All those smoke particles act like miniature magnets and attract all the water particles in the cloud. This generates more little hailstones, instead of big ones.

“We have already had more than 100 flights and over 200 hours, so the activity has been great,” said Terry Krauss, the project director for the Alberta Hail Suppression Society. “We have had some storms with golf ball-sized hail and for the most part that’s been spotty, so I’m hoping that we don’t set another new record.”

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READ MORE: Calgary has already exceeded annual rainfall total

The Alberta Hail Suppression Project has been running for 21 years. If the hail activity continues at the same pace for the rest of the season, 2016 is on track to break records. But hail season typically tapers off in August.

Krauss said the frequency of severe thunderstorms with hail in Alberta has been rising since 2010, including two hailstorms that each caused $500 million in damage in 2012 and 2014.

READ MORE: Alberta hit with 4 tornadoes in 4 days