Hail : when the sky falls down

Ice precipitations in the summer? It’s a much more common natural phenomenon than you would think, particularly in Alberta.
Close up of hands holding balls of hail

Those who have been in one of the many record hailstorms in recent years can attest to the fact that although they generally only last a few minutes, they can have devastating effects. In addition to the major hail events that made the headlines, there are dozens of hailstorms every year that cause significant damage.

How is hail formed?

Hail forms inside thunderclouds when air currents push water droplets to colder areas at high altitude, where they condense and freeze. When the pieces of ice get too big (hail can be the size of a grapefruit or even a melon!), they fall to the ground with speeds of up to 130 km/h.

Hailstorms occur mainly between May and October across Canada, but are most common in Alberta, the southern Prairies and Ontario. Alberta’s climate is particularly prone to hail because of its elevation and proximity to the Rockies.

Preventing hail

Radar stations monitor hail formation, and airplanes are ready to attack the clouds with an aerosol that can lessen the damage hail can cause. Science fiction? Not at all. This procedure is part of the Hail Suppression Program in Western Canada, thanks to a partnership between Intact Insurance and the Alberta Severe Weather Management Society.

How to prevent damage

Although most hailstorms pose minimal risk, when ice melons fall from the sky, they can cause serious damage to buildings and cars. Here are a few tips:

The essentials

  • Remove dead tree branches that may damage your house due to hailstones or high winds.
  • Store or attach all objects in the yard that may be damaged or swept away by the wind (furniture, BBQ, bicycles, toys, etc.).
  • If possible, park your vehicle in a garage or carport. Otherwise, cover it with a thick blanket or large boxes to minimize damage.
  • Close the curtains, shades and blinds in your house to restrict any flying glass should the windows break.
  • Stay indoors—hail can hurt you.

In case of hail

  • If you’re on the road, park your car away from trees and electrical wires that may fall on you. Stay there until the hail stops.
  • If there’s no safe place to park, cover your car with a thick blanket or put your car mats on the windshield and on the roof.
  • If you’re at home, stay away from windows, glass doors and skylights that could break if hit by hail.

An ounce of prevention…

  • Install impact-resistant shutters on large windows and glass doors.
  • Have your roof checked every year. And if you replace it, opt for the strongest materials.
  • Leave thick covers in your car.
  • Sign up for a weather alert service so you’ll know to prepare when a storm is headed your way.

If your vehicle or property is damaged by a storm, don’t panic. Repair or replacement costs may be covered by your car or home insurance. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact your insurance broker.

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