The “tragic” thunderstorm that brought destructive hail and flooding to areas of Calgary, Airdrie and Rocky View County on June 13 was what the premier called an “extraordinary event,” and the provincial government will be offering supports to the affected municipalities.
“Alberta Emergency Management Agency has classified this as an extraordinary event, meaning that it has met the one-in-25-year threshold,” Premier Jason Kenney said on Thursday.
“That means that the storm in Calgary, Airdrie and surrounding areas qualified for funding under the Alberta government’s disaster relief program. ”
During the storm, hail caused extensive damage to homes, cars and gardens. Heavy rain also led to flooding on many city streets, including major thoroughfares and highways.
At its peak, the flooding closed three lanes of northbound Deerfoot Trail near the McKnight Boulevard exit.
Kenney said the UCP will be expediting a relief package to cover uninsurable damages and losses and costs incurred by cities of Calgary, Airdrie and Rocky View County.
He added that most damage to homes and vehicles will be covered by private insurance companies.
According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the storm caused an estimated $250-500 million in damages, Kenney said. Roughly 35,000 claims have been made by residents of the communities that saw damages, with the IBC saying 95 per cent of those have been assessed to be eligible for coverage.
“We will be working with the City of Calgary on the details of the disaster relief program response and funding. We await their initial application,” Kenney said, adding he spoke to Mayor Naheed Nenshi earlier Thursday afternoon.
Kenney said municipalities affected by the storm have to submit applications under the disaster relief program that include an estimate of the repairs needed to municipal infrastructure, as well as any costs for emergency response and potential payments to support those with uninsurable private property damages.
Kenney said the government isn’t stepping in to offer money to those with insurable damage to their private property because it doesn’t want to “let the insurance companies off the hook.”
“If the government steps in and starts making payments for insurable private property, that would create a very serious moral hazard where people would, in the future, say they have no need to insure their property and it effectively would bail out the insurance companies,” Kenney said.
“Why would they make good on their policy obligations if the government is stepping in to do so instead?”
Kenney said the government will work with the municipalities and residents to make sure insurance companies give sufficient coverage to those who saw damage.
Residents pleaded for relief funding
Earlier this week, residents of northeast Calgary sent a letter to Alberta’s premier asking for provincial assistance in repairing the damages caused by the storm.
One of the residents behind the letter, Khalil Karbani, said while the funding is appreciated, it won’t help the majority of residents in the area dealing with the aftermath of the storm.
“Our insurance company has already told us that they’re putting a depreciation value on the roof and right now they’re only covering 20 percent of our $16,000 bill for the roof,” Karbani said.
Karbani said the attention of the community is turning towards a meeting with Minister of Community and Social Services Rajan Sawhney this weekend, where residents from the several affected communities will make their case for more funding to close the gap in their insurance coverage.
Speaking with media Thursday afternoon, Nenshi said he was pleased the government will be offering money to help with the storm recovery.
He called the disaster relief funding an “important first step” in helping those who sustained damage, adding that money to repair municipal infrastructure is key.
While Nenshi said he agreed with the province taking a hard line on not wanting to let insurance companies off the hook, he still said supporting residents needs to be a priority.
“I also take the human side of it and say, ‘You know what? There are a lot of people who are hurting,'” Nenshi said.
“This is not normal times, and is there something more that we can do for these folks?”