Hail is one of the most underrated dangers for your car. Formed during thunderstorms, hail is a type of precipitation that consists of solid pieces of ice. Though it is often small and thought to be harmless, hail can cause a great deal of damage — especially to your car. Fortunately, knowing more about hail can help you deal with hail damage and hail damage car repair.
Fact #1: Hail Forms During a Thunderstorm
To understand hail damage, you first have to know how hail happens. Hail starts its life as a tiny droplet of supercooled water, or water that is still liquid at below-freezing temperatures.
However, instead of condensing into a raindrop and falling to the ground, the droplet freezes onto a condensation nucleus like dust or dirt that’s lofted into the storm.
Fact #2: Hailstones Get Bigger By Moving Like Lottery Balls in a Tumbler During a Storm
When a hailstone is formed, it’s usually too light to fall to the ground immediately. Instead, it tumbles around in a thunderstorm’s updraft, or the fast upward wind that feeds a storm the unstable air it needs to survive.
As hailstones bounce around in the thunderstorm like lottery balls mixing in a tumbler, they collect water on their surface. This water then freezes on the hailstones surface, causing it to grow in layers, like an onion. The hailstone collects more and more ice layers until it becomes heavy enough to drop to the ground.
Fact #3: Most Hail is Tiny — But It’s Still Dangerous
While it’s easy to hear urban legends about softball sized hail pummeling places like Oklahoma and Kansas, most hail around the world is relatively small.
In fact, the National Weather Service only considers hail “severe” when it reaches 1 inch in diameter, the point at which it’s large enough to begin causing damage to people and property.
Even tiny increases in the size of a hailstone beyond that mark make these chunks of ice exponentially more dangerous, as larger hail can reach speeds of close to 100 mph.
Fact #4: Vehicle Damage is the Greatest Danger
It goes without saying that ice falling from the sky at highway speeds can hurt if it hits you. However, deaths and serious bodily injuries from hail in the United States are surprisingly rare these days, largely due to the advent of weather radar and advanced warning capabilities.
Instead, vehicle damage is the most common and widely known modern hazard of hailstorms. Large hail can easily shatter the windows and cause dozens of large dents, while small hail can still create hundreds of dings in metal and chips in glass. In extreme hail events, it’s entirely possible for a vehicle to become totaled.
Fact #5: Taking Shelter in Your Car Beneath an Overpass is Not a Good Idea
You may have heard that going under a highway overpass during a hailstorm is a good way of protecting yourself and your vehicle. While this may be better than nothing in an emergency, it can actually be more dangerous than it looks.
Taking shelter beneath a bridge or overpass can cause potentially deadly traffic jams, not to mention put your safety at risk if there’s a tornado. Your best bet is to pull off somewhere safe and get inside a sturdy building until the storm is gone. Remember— getting auto hail repair from having your car exposed to the elements is easier than getting medical care because you put yourself in an unsafe position.