Breakdown of Hail

Hail storms cause hail which is a type of precipitation that forms inside thunderstorm updrafts and consists of solid ice. Hailstones are formed when raindrops are carried upward by the thunderstorm updrafts into extremely cold areas of the atmosphere and freeze. Hailstones grow when they collide with liquid water drops that freeze onto the hailstone’s surface. The hail falls when the thunderstorm’s updraft can no longer support the weight of the hailstone and it is pulled down by gravity. This can occur if the stone becomes large enough or the updraft weakens.

Record Hail Storms

According to Weather Underground, Phoenix, Arizona experienced the single most damaging hailstorm in U.S. history on October 5, 2010, with a total cost of $3.2 billion. After this storm, some homeowners had to wait more than a year before a licensed contractor was available to repair their roofs. On April 10th, 2001 an extremely costly hail storm swept along the I-70 corridor from eastern Kansas to southwestern Illinois. This storm cost $2.5 billion in property damage. On May 8th, 2017, Denver was hit with a hail storm causing an estimated $2.0 billion in damage.

States with Most Hail

The states within the U.S. that tend to have the most hailstorms are Wyoming, Colorado, and Nebraska. The area where these three states meet is called “hail alley” which averages seven to nine hail days per year. Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas are also a part of hail alley. Other parts of the world that tend to have damaging hail storms are China, Russia, India, Australia, and Northern Italy.

Why Certain Seasons Get More Hail Than Others

Spring thunderstorms can lead to large hail more often than any other time of the year. According to AccuWeather, “the main reasons that hail occurs with the greatest frequency during the spring is that the jet stream and energy higher up in the atmosphere is still rather strong as compared to the summer months.” During spring, the freezing levels in the clouds are much lower than they are in the summer, which allows hail to form and reach the ground more easily. This lower freezing level means that hailstones have a shorter distance to travel before reaching the ground. More hail falls in the High Plains and Mountain West, because the temperature is cooler in these high elevation areas, and therefore the stones are still at a freezing level when they make impact with Earth.


infographic on the occurrence of hail

infographic on the occurrence of hail


How to Prepare for Hail Season

There are certain things you can do to prepare your home for a hail storm, especially if you live where it hails often. Taking precaution is important to minimize damage and protect yourself, your family, your vehicles, and other valuable possessions.

For starters, you should stay up-to-date with your local weather channels to know when a storm is coming. Inspecting and maintaining your roof is very important to avoid major hail damage. You should also clean out your gutters and drainpipes of leaves and debris. Keep your trees and shrubbery well-maintained and consider installing impact-resistant storm shutters to cover windows, skylights, and sliding doors. You should cover or store outdoor items or furniture and put your vehicle in the garage or cover it with a thick blanket. For more detailed information on how to protect your car from a hail storm, read our blog here.

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