We talk a lot about auto hail repair and hail damage but what exactly causes a hailstorm? While hail can be catastrophic, it is pretty interesting how the storms form.
While often localized and short-lived, hailstorms can be some of the most destructive weather phenomena on the level of a tornado or hurricane. When a hailstorm hits an area, the damage can be extensive especially in a densely populated area. Cars, houses and buildings usually suffer the worst but hailstones can also take out power lines and knock down trees.
How large the storm is or when one occurs depends on a number of factors. Hailstorms usually form during a recipe of atmospheric instability, moisture, and updrafts. Hailstorms can create huge chunks of ice that can destroy billions of dollars in property. How exactly does this happen? Well, let’s explore the science of it a bit and signs to look for.
How Does Hail Form?
Hailstorms start forming after satisfying a variety of conditions, including highly developed Cumulonimbus clouds present, the kind often found during thunderstorms and unstable air masses. With these conditions met, updrafts carry moisture far above the freezing level and into the clouds. This is where hail starts to form as super-cooled particles already formed in the clouds begin to stick to the recently gathered water droplets and form ice. It will keep rising in the clouds and gain new layers of ice until eventually becoming big and heavy enough for gravity to pull it back down. When this happens depends entirely on the strength of the updraft and on how many updrafts are present, since hail can fall from multiple updrafts while constantly growing. Particularly strong updrafts can create huge hailstones. The largest ever recorded weighed 2 pounds! Most, however, tend to stay a lot smaller than this.
Typical Hail Size
There is no real average size for hail as its creation is so dependent on so many different factors including updraft strength, downdraft strength, moisture content, etc. In most cases, hail will stay smaller than 2 ¾ inches in diameter and baseball-sized is not common. Hail even significantly under this size can cause extensive property damage, with hail as small as a dime having the capacity to ding cars and crack windows.
At times this size of hail carries even greater damage than say, golf ball-sized hail, because smaller hail not only can fall faster, but it also tends to fall in greater numbers and more consistently. One of the benefits though is that this more common, smaller hail does have less potential to harm people than the larger ones.
Where Are Hailstorms More Common and Why?
As most people already know, hail tends to affect certain areas more than others in both frequency and damage. Traditionally, hail is more commonly found in the Midwest and Great Plains, with high occurrence rates being found in states like Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and of course, Texas and Colorado. These areas tend to also have more thunderstorms, which happen to be perfect conditions for hail to develop. It’s also because many of these regions have an air freezing altitude below 11,000 feet, which helps aid the freezing process hail undergoes. Among these more common hail zones, Denver and Dallas have had especially rough hailstorms in recent years with damage amounting to over a billion dollars just in Denver alone. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why people worry about hailstorms so much!
Hail Damage to Vehicles
Vehicles account for a significant portion of auto hail damage claims. Metal and glass are no match for larger hail storms. When a hailstone hits a vehicle, say the hood, the metal is stretched and stressed. There could be 100’s of tiny dents from a decent-sized storm. If that hail damage is not repaired, or repaired incorrectly, further damage to the paint is possible as it is also stressed. This is why it is important to have your vehicle repaired WOYO PDR 009 after hail damage. Do not let your vehicle go through a second storm before getting auto hail repair. Hail hitting existing dents have a greater chance of damaging the paint more so than if it had been repaired after the first storm. A vehicle has a greater chance of being totaled by going through two hailstorms vs. one at a time.