Prepping includes being ready to cope with any kind of natural disaster or storm, such as a hail storm. There are a number of steps you can take before a storm that includes hail, to minimize hail damage to your garden, vehicle and home.
Hail occurs most frequently during severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. The typical season for hailstorms in the United States runs from March through October, but the peak season is between May and August.
Hailstones can vary greatly in diameter and size. Small stones are around ¼ of an inch in diameter but larger ones can vary from around 1 inch to 1 ½ inches There have been hailstones that get as large as chicken eggs.
Kansas holds the record for the largest hailstone, which weighed almost 2 pounds and was over five inches in diameter. While hailstorms are often very short in duration, typically around 6 minutes long, and usually less than 15 minutes, during that time the little balls of ice from the sky can cause an enormous amount of damage.
What Can Happen
Hail storms can come on very quickly, often without much warning. I remember standing in my kitchen, the sun was shining, when I heard what I thought was a tip-truck offloading stone and looked out the window to see a sheet of hail falling on houses just across the valley. It was a mad scramble to get breakables and animals under cover as the storm rolled our way.
Hail can devastate crops and fruit trees, panel-beat your vehicle like you never believed was possible, and smash every house window that faces the storm. People can be seriously injured or even killed by large hail stones.
If hail is accompanied by a severe storm or tornado, there can be structural damage to your home and other buildings caused by high winds and flooding, as well as the hail stones.
People and animals who are caught outside in a hailstorm are at risk for injury and even death if they are struck by large hailstones or repeatedly struck by smaller hailstones.
Here’s an actual hail storm in Oklahoma City from May 2010:
And another video from Colorado Springs in August of 2015 where the hail size is smaller but heavier and actually resulted in flash flooding in the area. Here you can see first-hand the kind of damage hail can cause:
Hail Storm Signs to Watch Out For
One of the signs of a potential hail storm is white clouds mixed with dark clouds, as seen in this video from Colorado in June 2012:
This video shows the ping pong size hail in Colorado Springs that was discussed in the previous video:
How to Prepare and Stay Safe
Around the House
Make wooden shutters that you can quickly run and close. These needn’t be expensive, although you can install commercially made hurricane shutters.
If you are not in a hurricane or tornado area but hailstorms are frequent you can re-purpose pallet wood into shutters, hinge them to you outside walls, paint to a color that suits your home and have a system in place to secure them quickly when hail threatens.
If you don’t have shutters fit castors to heavy furniture that you can wheel into place in front of vulnerable windows. It’ll save hail spreading shards of glass all over the room.
Also close curtains so if glass breaks it doesn’t spread around the room making clean up quicker.
You can also fit protective film so glass shards don’t fly across the room if windows do break.
As with any type of natural disaster or storm planning, you will want to create a customized family emergency plan for you and your family so that everyone in the family knows what to do when a hail storm is predicted or has begun.
Your plan should include things that you implement beforehand, as well as safety procedures that you will all follow during and after a hail storm.
Making sure animals and people are safe
Grab you pet and get them inside the house. Animals like sheep and cattle may need to be herded into their shelters.
Make sure all children and adults are ccounted for so no one is left outside – for example grandpa may be walking back form the shop – get in a vehicle and fetch him fast.
Call in children playing outside and make sure they stay well away from windows facing the storm. Yes, they will want to dart out and fetch hailstones but they can do this afterwards.
Secure outside furniture
Outside furniture with glass tops will need to be moved or covered. If high winds accompany the storm then the furniture will need to be secured to save it from being blown about causing more destruction.
Get vehicles under cover
If you have a garage get the car in as soon as possible. If not then we have some special tips for trying to protect your vehicle further down in this article.
Your plan should include creation of an emergency kit that includes food, bottled water, extra cash, copies of important documents in a waterproof pouch, an inventory list of valuables that includes brand, serial, model numbers and even photos if possible.
This is in case of a hail storm that accompanies a tornado where you will need to get to a basement, as your house may be destroyed. For an ordinary hailstorm this isn’t necessary.
Check out our list of essential survival items for more ideas on what to include as part of your emergency kit.
Write down any relevant contact information for your insurance agent, the fire department, and emergency medical personnel. Inspect fire extinguishers and smoke detectors to ensure they are in good working condition. Have tools on hand to turn off utilities if needed.
In the event that you are caught in your car or at work when a hail storm hits, you will want to have a get home bag prepared and keep it with you in your office or your locker at work. Many preppers also prepare a bug out bag for their car as well.
This doesn’t mean you will necessarily use them as hail storms are usually over fairly quickly but if there is flooding it may delay you getting home and you bug out bag could be very useful.
Stay Alert to Weather Conditions
Before and during a potential hailstorm, use your cell phone or the radio to help you stay tuned to local weather updates, or if these options are not available, via a NOAA radio that can be operated by battery or hand cranking.
Pay attention to weather changes on a regular basis so you will be aware when weather conditions seem different than normal for the season.
Identify a Safe Place
Identify the safest part of your home in advance as part of your hail storm safety plan. The safe place you designate should be away from windows, perhaps located in a basement.
If you don’t have a basement, identify an interior room on the lowest level of the home, such as a bathroom, hallway, or closet that has no windows. You want as many walls between you and the storm as possible.
Prepare Your Home Interior
In the event of a hail storm warning with severe winds you may need to secure heavy furniture, such as armoires, bookcases, or hutches, that could tip over during a storm. This could be as simple as anchoring them to the wall.
Close all interior doors in the house. Close windows and exterior doors in your home. Close curtains to prevent glass from flying across the room if windows do break. If severe winds are not predicted then interior furniture should be fine left in place.
Inspect your roof frequently throughout the year, but specifically before the start of each hail season, for any weak spots that would be more susceptible to hail damage.
Replace damaged shingles and keep gutters clear of debris so that heavy rains and hail stones can drain properly during and after a storm. Consider installing shingles on your roof that will withstand the damage that can occur from hail.
The recommended shingles to protect your roof are FM4473 or UL2218 as Class 3 or 4. If you have a chimney, make sure to inspect it for any weaknesses and repair any weak areas that could be worsened by the hail impact.
Before storm season, trim trees and bushes to remove any dead or weakened branches that could give way under the brunt of strong winds and hail. Pay special attention to any limbs that are hanging over your house or other structures.
This will prevent damage to your structures and reduce the amount of debris that will be blown around and that could cause an injury to you or your family members during a storm.
Consider swapping out rock or gravel in your landscaping with shredded bark or other soft materials that will be less likely to cause damage if blown around by strong winds. Secure patio furniture and other outdoor items that could be blown away or damaged.
Preventing Hail Damage to Your Vehicle
Put motor vehicles and recreational vehicles away in a garage or under a car port. If no garage is available, consider purchasing a high-tech car cover in advance to either use regularly or have on hand to use when a hailstorm is predicted.
You will be aware of the storm wind direction and can use the house or other buildings’ walls as a lee by parking vehicles next to them to afford some protection
Tips to protect your car using your office building or house as a hail shadow:
Tips During a Hail Storm
- If the hailstorm is accompanied by lighting, do not use the phone. Avoid touching metal objects like pipes, stoves, and sinks.
- Use flashlight or battery powered lanterns. Avoid using candles which could be blown over and become a fire hazard if windows break.
- Identify escape routes, but stay inside until storm has passed. Determine any additional equipment that you may need to escape successfully such as a rope ladder (if you live above first floor and the stairs are blocked) or a crow bar or chainsaw (in case heavy debris or furniture blocks your escape).
- Plan for a safe meeting place if separated, what to do if caught away from home, etc.
- Agree on a way to signal for help from others if you are trapped. This could be a visible signal that is hung to alert emergency personnel that you need help or a whistle in case you are trapped out of sight under debris.
- Bring any pets inside the house or garage and herd any livestock into a barn or shed so they are not injured by falling hail or flying debris.
Check with your home insurance company in advance to ensure that you are covered for damage from a hail storm. Many home insurance companies do not provide coverage from hail damage as part of a standard policy.
If you live in an area subject to frequent hail storms , buy a policy that specifically covers you for hail damage. Know the procedure you need to follow to submit a claim and be prepared to take photos of damage as quickly as possible.
Hail Damage to Vehicles
Hail damage to vehicles results in that pitted orange peel effect that is unsightly and devalues your car. It is also costly to repair, so the best thing it to try avoid this happening. Thousands of hail-damage- to-vehicle cases are reported annually.
Colorado , the center of Hail Alley, that runs through Missouri, Illinois and Nebraska, has had hail damage claims running into billions of dollars over the past ten years.
Ten things to do to help minimise hail damage to your car:
- Get the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) app onto your cell phone which issues regular weather updates and warnings.
- Your insurance company may also SMS a warning of approaching storms to your cell. Sometimes they get it wrong and no hail falls – but at least you can be prepared in case it does.
- To be safe always carry hail damage mats. There are plenty on the market providing hail protection cover for your car.
- Choose a car cover that has the most padding. The extra cost is worth it as it will protect it from the hail.
- If using a carport you should know, or ask the neighbors if you are new to the area, which side the worst hail comes from, and install roll down sides to protect your vehicle. After your home your vehicle is usually your second most expensive investment.
- Don’t park under a tree for protection – the weight of hail and high winds may cause branches to come crashing down onto your car causing even more damage.
- If caught in the open in your vehicle you can remove the rubber floor mats and place these over the windshield to protect it. An old blanket kept in the car for picnics can even be used particularly on the roof – protect the roof first – the hood can be replaced if severely dented.
- Also try to protect the headlights with any clothing you may have lying around in the car, replacing lights is expensive. The alternative is to fit headlight protectors to your car available from your local auto supplies shop or online.
- Face the nose of the car into the direction of the storm to help minimize damage along the sides of the car.
- Should your car be damaged make sure to take photos of the size of the hail with the car in the background to back up insurance claims.
If Driving When a Hailstorm Occurs
- Stop driving as soon as possible. Pull completely off the highway. Don’t attempt to race to get home!
- Drive into a nearby parking garage, under a bridge or gas station awning.
- Stay in your vehicle until the hail stops completely.
- If hail hasn’t begun yet, and it’s not terribly windy, you can lay your floor mats on the outside of your front windshield as added protection to help prevent hail from shattering the glass.
- Stay away from car windows. If necessary lay down on the seat or floor, face down and cover yourself with a blanket or jacket to protect against flying glass.
- Put children underneath you if possible so they are protected.
Following a Hail Storm
- As soon as it is safe to do so, inspect the interior and exterior of your home and property for any possible damage.
- If power and other utilities were affected during the storm, follow proper procedures to enlist help of a professional to get utilities back on safely.
- Notify your insurance agent as quickly as possible and follow their procedures for filing a claim. Separate damaged items from non-damaged, take photos of any damage. Keep receipts for clean-up costs to submit for reimbursement.
- Do not attempt to drive on flooded roadways or other areas.
While there are a few last-minute things you can do to protect property and vehicles, basically all the planning should really be done well in advance to make sure your family will weather the storm safely and there is no undue damage to your investments.
updated 06/18/2020 by Jeanie Beales