Calgary, Alberta – “It was the worst storm I’ve ever seen in my career,” said Cassie Rossen, manager of Dilawri Collision Centre, recounting that June day that managed to make the spring of 2020 even worse for the city of Calgary.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) released a report on Monday outlining the most costly severe weather events of the past year with the June 13 Calgary hailstorm totalling more than $1.3 billion in damages and easily dwarfing the other events by comparison.
The storm caught the city off-guard, as many Calgarians are accustomed to hail season occurring over the summer in July and August.
“This storm left more vehicles undrivable due to hail than I have ever seen,” said Rossen, who described the most-affected parts of the city as “looking like a warzone” to this day.
“People were running out of their rental maxes way before their vehicles could get worked on due to backordered parts. Windshields were smashed out, panoramic roofs were smashed out. We had vehicles where every lamp on the outside was smashed out.”
This unexpected storm early in the season, combined with a COVID-19 lockdown that had only just begun to lift, caught Calgary collision centres by surprise and they still continue to feel the effects of that devastating storm to this day.
“Things were swamped here and COVID caused me to only have half the staff here to take care of things. I’ve been backlogged for the last eight months, still doing hail repairs,” said Sasha Butts, production manager at Country Hills Collision.
It’s a common lament among Calgary repairers at this point. The storm is more than half a year past and yet the repairs don’t seem to stop.
“It began with a slow process, I guess because it was very difficult for the insurance companies to get a handle on how fast everything was coming across their desk. But, once they were able to have that direction of where they were sending the work and how fast they were able to get it out, I think all of the shops started to see quite an influx of work, probably lasting to the end of November,” said Al Giga, manager of All Makes Collision Centre.
The bureaucratic side of working with insurance companies, and the delays that result, are nothing new to collision centres, however, what no one had a clear answer to was how to address the concerns of customers of how their vehicles would be serviced safely, in regards to COVID regulations.
“[COVID] definitely made it a little more challenging due to the fact that people were a little more apprehensive to leave their cars here or bring their cars in because of the possibility of things getting shut down again. Luckily enough, we’re considered an essential service so that never happened and we were able to put our clients’ minds at ease,” said Rossen.
However, in spite of everything, many shop owners were grateful for the patience of their customers while they attempted to sort out the situation.
“It was new for everyone, trying to deal with that amount of customers and trying to keep everyone patient, while maybe not having as many people in the shop. I would say with confidence that customers were very patient with the process, knowing what a lot of the shops had to go through to make sure that they were ready to service their customers. I would say that that was a highlight of this process,” said Giga.
For Giga, having braved the first storm and its aftermath fills him with the confidence that if they made it through once, they can do it again.
“Knowing where you’ve come from is very helpful in knowing where you’re going. When preparing for potentially another hailstorm coming in the spring, we’re at least able to prepare for it knowing that we’ve been through it once before.”