Hailstorms are kind of like that cousin who never calls or texts to check in and then randomly decides to show up to your house uninvited. You never know when they might appear and mess up your day. Even if you’ve never been in a hailstorm, it’s not a bad thing to brush up on your knowledge. So here are seven quick facts everyone should know about hail.
1. Hail isn’t frozen rain. According to the National Geographic Society, the big difference is that hail falls from the sky in solid form. Freezing rain falls as a liquid and then freezes to a solid as it nears the ground.
2. It doesn’t need to be cold outside for hail to fall. Hail forms when updrafts in thunderstorms carry raindrops up into extremely cold areas of the atmosphere. That’s where they then freeze into balls of ice, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
3. You can’t just eyeball a thunderstorm in the distance for signs of hail. NOAA says that to determine the probability of hail, meteorologists need radar to look inside the storm. Because hail gives off more energy than raindrops, it’ll appear as the color red on radar.
4. Never underestimate the effects of hailstones. The National Weather Service reports that even small hail can cause significant damage.
5. If there are hailstorm warnings, make sure you close blinds or window shades to prevent possible injuries from broken glass. And don’t run outside during a hailstorm to protect your car or other property, says the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes. Stay inside and away from windows, skylights and doors.
6. Once a hailstorm is over, you can go out and check for damage. If shrubs, trees and plants are stripped of foliage, there’s a good possibility that your roof is also damaged. If that’s the case, cover the holes in your roof as well as any broken windows to prevent water from coming in.
7. Fun fact: The majority of hailstones are small in size, at about two inches in diameter. But volleyball-sized hailstones have been recorded, measuring eight inches in diameter. Picture that!
Photo courtesy FEMA/Win Henderson