Hail is in the Forecast: Are You Prepared?
While humans have figured out how to forecast weather fairly accurately, it is not yet within our power to command the weather or prevent it from damaging our homes, vehicles, and crops. We can, however, take preparatory measures to minimize the damage done and protect those people and things most important to us. With hail in the forecast, here’s what you need to know to be prepared.
But wait, what IS hail anyways?
Hail is a form of frozen precipitation that forms during severe thunderstorms. During these storms, drafts of air quickly shoot upwards, while other drafts of air quickly plummet downwards. In the updrafts, water vapor and rain get pushed very high into the cloud. The higher the water vapor and rain go, the colder the air temperature becomes, until the water condenses, freezes, and forms the tiny ice particle at the center of the hail stone.
The force of the updrafts and the force of gravity then begin to battle. The updrafts keep the tiny little hail stone high up in the cold clouds, while the gravity pulls it down below the freezing line. As gravity pulls the little hail stone down, it bumps into other ice particles and rain, forming a larger, icier, spikier chunk of hail. And then the updraft sucks it back up into the clouds, causing this new layer to freeze. The little hail storm grows and grows.
Eventually, the hail stone grows too large to sustain this process any longer, or the thunderstorm produces such a strong downdraft that the hail comes plummeting from the sky and onto the ground.
Get Yourself Prepared
Know the Signs. Hail tends to accompany severe storms that bring strong winds, lightening, heavy rainfall, and thunder. Hail tends to fall from the white clouds among the dark ones when cold air fronts clash into much warmer air fronts.
Stay Tuned In. Listen to the weather and stay informed. If the forecast is calling for hail, use the time you have between now and then to get your family, pets, and possessions to safety.
Find Shelter for Your Pets. Make sure that you bring your pets inside. Your pets are very vulnerable to injury from hail, so it is important that you bring your pets inside before the storm arrives, as you do not want to be out gathering the animals when the sky is falling. Provide respite from the storm in the form of farm buildings or shed for larger, non-indoor animals.
Find Cover for Your Possessions. Bring your car, boats, RVs, motorcycles, and the like into the garage or another enclosed area. Also bring in any other objects sitting outside that you do not want damaged (e.g., garden globes, glass top patio table), or that could easily be hurled around in the wind, causing even more damage to your property. If you do not have anywhere to put your vehicles, and you have plenty of warning time before the storm hits, you could park your car in a parking garage.
Stay Inside. Do not go outside in a hail storm. Even small hail stones can cause significant injury, as they are driven by both gravity and strong winds. In fact, hail stones can reach speeds of 100 mph!
Shut the Windows and Close the Blinds. Hail can break through glass windows and will if the stones are large enough. Close the blinds and stay away from the windows to protect you and your loved ones from shattering glass. Stay out of rooms with skylights.
Pull Over If On the Road. If you get caught in a hail storm while you are driving, pull your vehicle to the side of the road, as roads may become slippery when covered with the small ice balls. Once pulled over, turn your back to the windows to protect yourself from flying glass, or move to the floor if possible. Move to the backseat to avoid sitting under the sunroof.
Most of All, Stay Safe. Do not attempt to prepare for a hail storm if the hail storm has already begun. Just stay inside, away from windows and skylights, and wait it out.
(Adapted from weather.com)