On April 7, 2020, the Quad Cities was slammed with baseball-sized hail that smashed car windows and tore through people’s roofs.
Last April’s hail storms caused nearly $3 billion dollars in damage both locally and in other parts of the Midwest just in one night.
Local 4’s Meteorologist Zane Satre says, as nasty as hail is, the process to form a hailstone isn’t complex.
How hailstones form
Everything starts when water droplets form around dust and other particles.
Strong thunderstorms then lift these small droplets up, high into the clouds.
This high up, the air is very cold, freezing the water droplets into small hailstones.
These small hailstones are then tossed up, down and around inside the storm’s strong winds, growing as other liquid drops freeze under their surface.
This continues then until the stone is too heavy to be held up by the storm’s updraft, and then it falls down to earth, eventually reaching the ground.
Dangers of hailstones vary according to size
Not all hail that falls is large and dangerous.
Various sizes of hail are compared to common objects in this chart:
Hail isn’t considered severe unless it’s one of those sizes you see marked under the “severe” category — at least 1 inch in diameter, the size of a quarter.
When hail gets to be this size or larger, it can do some damage.
For example, a 1-inch hailstone falling thousands of feet can reach the ground at about 40 mph.
A 2-inch hailstone — the size of a hen egg — can reach 70 mph on its way down.
The biggest hailstones — those 2.75 inches or more that are in comparable in size to a baseball — can reach 100 mph.
Picture a Major League pitcher throwing a fastball right at you, and you’ll have a decent idea of what that would feel like.
Thankfully, hail that large is fairly rare.
In fact, there hasn’t been hail that size or larger in over a decade because it’s pretty simple to stay safe from hail.
How to stay safe from hail
- Protect your head
- Get inside if you’re not already in some sort of shelter
- Stay away from windows; they are easier to repair than your skull is
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