There is no question that we get storms in Alabama. But don’t take our word for it. The National Weather Service’s severe weather summary for 2020 reported 78 tornadoes, 766 high wind events, and 47 hailstorms in Alabama.
Looking into NOAA’s storm events database for hail events in 2020, we find that Huntsville experienced one-inch diameter hail during an April 8 storm. Mobile saw high winds and hail on May 27. Birmingham Airport experienced a hailstorm on June 3. There was no mention of the size of the hail in those last two locations. Golf ball-sized hail was reported in Mt. Sterling on April 8, Waterloo on April 9, and Horton on May 22.
What is Hail?
During a thunderstorm, updraft winds form that can carry raindrops high into the atmosphere. The freezing temperature at high altitudes produces ice. That mechanism can continue with layers of ice forming over the original each time the ice hits an updraft carrying it into freezing conditions.
When the weight of the ice overcomes the updraft, the hail makes its way toward the ground. However, along the way, winds move the ice at an angle or even sideways in very strong winds.
Depending on the conditions hail ranges from a quarter-inch diameter or pea size to one-inch diameter or quarter size to four-inch diameter or softball size. The largest hailstone found in the U.S. was in South Dakota and had a diameter of eight inches and weighed one pound, 15 ounces.
The size is one key element of the damage from hail. The other is the speed the hail is traveling. Small size hail travels between nine and 25 mph. Quarter size hail is usually moving at 25 to 40 mph. Hail at four-inch diameter can reach over 100 mph.
As you can tell, hail is not something you can ignore. It’s very important to prepare for those inevitable hailstorms in our state.
How to Prepare for Hailstorms
We’ve pulled together a list of key items to consider when preparing for hailstorms.
1. Verify Your Insurance Coverage
Check your homeowner’s insurance policy to find out exactly what coverage you have for hail and wind damage. Usually, it’s covered, but the deductible may be different for hail damage than for other hazards. There may also be some cosmetic exclusions for hail and wind damage.
Comprehensive automobile insurance usually covers hail damage. Even so, it’s worthwhile to review your coverage level and the deductible. For both home and auto coverage, you can explore options with your insurer for increasing coverage if needed.
2. Keep Up With Roof Maintenance
As hail gathers speed on its journey to the ground, the first thing it usually hits is your home’s roof. Shingles can be punctured by hail and wind can loosen or dislodge them. That allows rain to penetrate the wood or even the attic. The aggregate surface of shingles can also be dislodged and washed off over time.
Replace damaged and missing shingles on a regular basis. At roof replacement time, consider impact-resistant shingles that provide more protection to your roof. That type of roof may also be eligible for homeowner’s insurance discounts.
3. Maintain Gutters and Downspouts
Keep your gutters and downspouts clear and free of obstructions. Any overflow due to heavy rain and hail can cause the rainwater to pour over the gutters and fall directly on your foundation. That results in hydrostatic pressure buildup on the basement or crawl space walls. Basement waterproofing and sump pumps can catch leaks and prevent flooding.
Lightweight aluminum gutters and downspouts can also be damaged by hail. Consider upgrading to impact-resistant materials.
4. Trim Your Trees
Don’t neglect a spring and fall routine for trimming your trees. Remove any branches that are growing over your home as well as any trees that may be leaning that way. Hail and windstorms will bring considerable stress to your trees and could well topple them onto your home and outbuildings. Watch for roots that may be growing near your foundation. They can dry out the soil, causing just as much damage as heavy rain.
5. Consider Window Protection
Hail is typically moving at an angle, depending on the direction and velocity of the wind. This means it will impact your home on the windward side, driving into windows and shattering them. This results in glass, hail, and wind entering your home.
Exterior shutters are a good way to avoid this type of damage. Of course, you’ll need to include closing the shutters as part of your storm preparation routine. You can also install impact-resistant windows. Further help is interior coverings including drapes, blinds, and shades that can prevent broken glass from causing even more damage or injury.
6. Install Hail-resistant Siding
That same hail that is pounding your roof and windows is also doing a number on your home’s siding. Vinyl, aluminum, and wood siding are all subject to dents, cracks, and chipping from hailstorms.
Consider installing fiber cement, engineered wood, or steel siding as they are hail resistant. They are great candidates for new and upgraded homes. This type of siding may also be eligible for insurance discounts.
7. Move Your Vehicles into the Garage
Moving your car out of the way of a storm, particularly a hailstorm, is the best way to protect it from significant damage. As a storm approaches, move your car into the garage. A carport or protective automobile cover can also prove helpful if you don’t have room in your garage.
8. Use Hail Guards
Hail guards are typically a metal mesh structure that can be used to protect air conditioning condensers, heat pumps, rooftop vents, and even skylights. The coils in air conditioning condensers and heat pumps are at considerable risk of damage from hail. Rooftop vents and skylights can be covered with guards as well to prevent damage.
We’re hopeful that hail won’t damage your home’s foundation. Yet everything else that comes along with it can do significant damage from wind to heavy rain. That rainwater can also collect near your home’s foundation, finding any cracks to enter your basement or crawl space. We recommend that you consult the professionals at AFS Foundation and Waterproofing Specialists for a free inspection and repair estimate to identify any issues with your foundation, basement, or crawl space that need attention in preparation for hail, wind, and rainstorms.