Has your home or car been affected by a hail storm? (image via google)

Luckily, here in Arizona, hail doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it can do serious damage.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA), hail causes more than $1B in damage each year.  It flattens crops, breaks windows, damages roofs, and dents cars.  Even small hail stones can cause major problems because of the speed at which they hit, often approaching 90 miles per hour.  The Insurance Information Institute reports that in 2011, Arizona experienced 20 hail events.  In comparison to some other states, that number is very small, but as we learned in October of 2010, it only takes one storm to cause widespread losses.   The best way to protect yourself and your property from damage is to know what to do when hail happens.

What is Hail?

Hail starts out as small chunks of ice that become larger when they collide with water droplets.  The churning nature of the storm, filled with updrafts and downdrafts, sends these little pieces of ice up and down through the varying temperatures contained within the cloud layer.  When the ice pellets go up, the water freezes around them, increasing their size and causing them to fall.  This can happen over and over again and determines the size of the hailstone.

Hail happens most frequently during thunderstorms in the spring and summer months, but can occur anytime the conditions are right.   In order for a thunderstorm to produce hail, the cloud layer needs to have a high liquid content, large water droplets, the right temperature, and sufficient buoyancy.  The kind of intense updraft winds found with tornados also help create the conditions for producing hail.

The Damage it Does

Hail can cause damage to anything it can hit which includes your home, your car, your crops, your animals, your business, and of course, yourself.  Hail can cause serious damage to the roof of your home, breaking shingles, causing structural damage, and creating leaks.  It can also break windows in your home or business which allows accompanying weather phenomena like rain and wind to damage the building’s interior.  Hail can also break the windows and windshields of cars, trucks, RVs, and airplanes.  Although only cosmetic, hail can also cause hundreds of small dents all over the vehicle, decreasing its value.  Hail can injury humans and animals and destroy crops.

How to Protect Yourself

The best way to protect yourself and your property from hail damage is to ensure you have adequate insurance coverage in place that protects you from losses from hail.  Hail damage to a home is generally covered under most standard homeowner’s policies.  It is also included in most comprehensive auto coverage.  However, it is important to read through your policies to ensure this coverage is included in your actual policy.  If your policies do not provide protection from losses resulting from hail, talk to your insurance agent about the options you have to secure this coverage.

You can also take important steps when a hail storm is eminent to limit the damage to your property.  Move any vehicle inside a garage, car port, or covered parking lot.  If none of these are available, you can cover the car with thick blankets that will help cushion the impact of any hailstones and limit the damage.   Bring any animals indoors and take shelter in a room without windows.  There is little you can do to protect crops, homes, or buildings when a storm is coming, which is why it is so important to have the right insurance coverage in place before hail happens.

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