The wind stirs, the sky turns an ominous gray-green and that tingly feeling of excitement – or dread – hits: A major storm is brewing. Whether you’re the type of person who loves thunderstorms or fears them, you know spring storms can do serious damage to your property, including your car.
Most thunderstorms have the potential to cause hail. But how, exactly, do gentle raindrops turn into property-destroying missiles? Even though hail damage can vary, the way hail forms is quite predictable:
How Rain Forms Into Hail
Step 1: Wind
When the wind picks up, updrafts – air moving vertically in a thunderstorm – carry water vapor and rain up into the air, above the point where water freezes. At this height, raindrops are weaponized as they condense into tiny chunks of ice.
Step 2: Suspension
Moisture is suspended in this freezing cold air for a period of time before falling again, thus collecting more water droplets that pack together to form a dense solid. In this manner, the stronger the updraft is, the larger the hailstone will become.
For example, if an updraft moves at a speed of about 50 miles per hour, it can create a quarter-sized piece of hail. Then, it’s only a matter of time – and gravity – before the hailstone becomes large enough that it breaks free of the updraft and shoots back toward earth.
Step 3: Gravity
Once the force of gravity pulling on that chunk of ice is greater than the strength of the updraft, hail falls back toward the ground – or, oftentimes, toward that shiny vehicle in your driveway. Here in the midwest, where frequent storms and high winds can easily cause crop and property damage, it’s important to keep an eye on the weather, especially during spring.
When is hail damage imminent?
Generally speaking, an ice particle must be around 0.2 inches to be considered hail. According to the National Weather Service, a “severe” piece of hail must be 1 inch or greater. When high-speed updrafts are severe enough to create a golf ball-size chunk of ice — hail damage to your property becomes imminent.
How can you protect your vehicle from hail damage?
If you keep an eye on the weather, – especially during spring – it’s likely that you will have enough time to move your car to a safe space before a severe thunderstorm hits. If you don’t have a garage, however, or if a sudden storm sweeps in with more power than the initial weather report indicated, your vehicle may be in for a destructive surprise.
To ensure your vehicle’s expensive surfaces stay safe this season, join us back here on our blog later next month as we share the top tips to protect your automobile from hail damage.