Hail occurs when raindrops rise into frigid parts of the atmosphere due to thunderstorm updrafts, causing them to freeze. The hailstones then rain down, potentially causing damage or harm to anything in their path including animals, cars, houses, and people.
If you get caught in a storm, but especially a hailstorm, while driving, there are a few things you should do to ensure the safety of you and your vehicle.
What Should I Do if I'm Caught in a Hailstorm?
Be sure to pull off of the road or seek nearby shelter, stay inside your vehicle, and protect yourself. If you follow all of these steps, you should be able to safely weather a hailstorm.
1. Pull Over Immediately
The most important thing to do if it starts to hail when you are driving is to pull over immediately. Driving while it is hailing can increase the impact speed of the hailstones, increasing the potential for more damage to your vehicle. If you see a nearby shelter you can pull into like a garage or gas station with an awning, slowly head there if you feel safe.
It is very important that you don't park underneath a bridge or overpass. While it is safe for you and your car, you can cause a traffic jam in the time of an emergency.
2. Stay in Your Vehicle
Although it may seem tempting to step outside and feel the hail, this isn't the best idea. Although most hailstones are pretty small, the largest hailstones can be bigger than a softball. These can kill on impact, so you definitely don't want to take that chance. Even smaller stones can cause concussions if they hit you in the right spot.
3. Protect Yourself
You do need to take extra precautions after you pull over just in case the hailstones grow in size. You can lay down in the back seat facedown. Or, if you are in the front seat, bend down so your head is towards the floor. Cover yourself with a blanket from your emergency kit. These steps can protect sensitive areas like your face from broken glass if your windows end up shattering.
What Kind of Damage Can a Hailstorm Do to My Car?
According to the National Weather Service, there were 3,763 hailstorms in 2021. Usually, you don't have to worry about the hail from one of these storms damaging your car unless it reaches a size of 1 inch or larger. When hail reaches this size, it can start to do serious damage to your car in these ways:
Chips the paint — Smaller pieces of hail that are moving at a high speed can cause the paint on your car to chip, which can lead to rust if not repaired.
Dents the body — Larger pieces of hail can make your car look like someone hit it all over with a ball-peen hammer. This usually requires a body shop to get fixed. Most insurances cover the cost of hail damage, but be sure to check if yours does.
Cracks or breaks the windshield — Smaller-sized hail can cause your windshield to crack or chip, while larger pieces can definitely break through the windshield, leading to a windshield replacement.
Drive Carefully if You Encounter a Hailstorm
Anytime it starts to hail when you are on the road, make sure you know what to do once you assess the situation. Another way to prepare yourself for anything else you may encounter while on the road is by taking a driver's education course at Aceable.com. You will learn the rules of the road through interactive teaching methods and fun lesson plans.