Spring and fall have the right weather conditions to create hailstorms, leaving dented cars and ruined roofs in their wake, but it’s something we don’t give much thought to until it damages our property. Here are 8 things you might not know about hail from how it’s formed to what kind of insurance you need to cover the resulting damage.
1. There are Two Kinds of Hail
Hail is formed when strong updrafts inside a storm cell move “supercooled” water droplets. These droplets are liquid but are surrounded by air that is below freezing. The type of hail formed in these conditions is determined by how quickly the water freezes.
Clear hailstones are “wet growth” hail, formed when water gathers around an ice nucleus and slowly freezes to it. Dry growth hail is formed when the water freezes as soon as it makes contact with the nucleus, forming cloudy ice.
2. Severe Thunderstorms are Far More Likely to Produce Hail than Tornadoes
“Supercells,” storm cells with rotating winds, get a lot of attention during severe storms because they’re the weather phenomenon that creates tornadoes. However, while there’s only about a 30% chance that they’ll form a tornado, the updrafts created by their winds almost guarantee they’ll form hail.
3. Hail is Officially Measured Using Common Objects
When a meteorologist talks about hail “the size of golf balls,” this isn’t just a random comparison: the National Weather Service has official terminology that compares the hail’s diameter to common household objects, ranging from peas (1/4 inch) to softballs (4.5 inches.) The NWS considers hail the size of a quarter (one-inch diameter) and larger to be severe.
4. The Largest Hailstone Ever Recorded Weighed Almost Two Pounds
Hailstones grow inside storm cells until the updrafts are no longer strong enough to keep them airborne. Despite depending on winds to stay aloft, they can be surprisingly large. On July 23, 2010, the heaviest hailstone on record fell in Vivian, South Dakota. This chunk of ice weighed in at 1.93 pounds and was over 8 inches in diameter.
5. Hail Size Can Be Measured with Radar
How does the weatherperson on your local TV station know the size of hail falling in an area? In the past, this was based on observations made by weather spotters, but new dual polarization Doppler radar systems can detect the size of hail directly.
While older Doppler radar systems bounced horizontal radar pulses off of precipitation, dual polarization systems use horizontal and vertical pulses, giving meteorologists a three-dimensional view of storms, including precipitation and debris. Along with hail, this system can detect tornadoes and identify their probable path. Roll-out of dual polarization radar in the U.S. began in early 2011 and finished in mid-2013.
6. Hail and Wind from Thunderstorms can Cause as Much Damage as Hurricanes
In 2012, damage from Hurricane Sandy resulted in $25 billion in insurance claims. That same year, claims from hail and wind damage from thunderstorms occurring during peak storm season wasn’t far behind at $23.5 billion.
7. Death and Injuries from Hail are Very Uncommon
The last known death from hail in the U.S. occurred in Fort Worth, TX, in 2000 when a man was trying to move a new car under some cover to prevent hail damage. On average, 24 people in the U.S. are injured by hail each year. To put that number into perspective, you’re 100 times more likely to be injured by an air freshener.
8. Hail Damage isn’t Covered on Auto Policies Unless you have Comprehensive Coverage
“Full coverage” insurance, which is usually required on cars with a lien, doesn’t cover everything. This type of insurance only includes accident and collision coverage, paying to repair cars involved in an accident whether it was your fault or not. To get reimbursed for hail repairs, you need comprehensive insurance which covers your car for damage outside of auto accidents, including fires, vandalism, theft and weather.
Whether you have some minor dents or a shattered windshield, our I-CAR Gold certified technicians can give you an estimate on the repair costs in about 15 minutes from when you bring your car in. Stop down to see us at W275 N6683 Moraine Dr. in Merton, WI, or call us to make an appointment at (262) 538-1319.