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Hail is one of the most common and costly weather hazards in the United States, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to buildings, vehicles, and crops every year. Help guard against the damaging effect of a hailstorm by following the steps below.

Make A Plan

A hailstorm can disrupt electrical service and is often accompanied by other severe weather events, such as hurricanes and tornadoes. Prepare your family for the hazards and inconveniences of a hailstorm by creating a disaster preparedness plan, including a disaster survival kit and an emergency evacuation plan.

Stay Informed

Hail often occurs during severe weather patterns, such as strong thunderstorms. When severe weather threatens, tune in to a battery-powered radio for updates. A severe thunderstorm watch means that conditions are right for thunderstorms to become severe. A severe thunderstorm warning means that a storm poses an immediate threat to the people and property in its path. This warning may be accompanied by a siren or other community alert system.



How does hail form?

  • Inside of a thunderstorm are strong updrafts of warm air and downdrafts of cold air.
  • If a water droplet is picked up by the can be carried well above the freezing level. With temperatures below 32F...our water droplet freezes.
  • As the frozen droplet begins to fall...carried by cold may thaw as it moves into warmer air toward the bottom of the thunderstorm
  • But...our little half-frozen droplet may also get picked up again by another updraft...carrying it back into very cold air and re-freezing it. With each trip above and below the freezing level our frozen droplet adds another layer of ice.
  • Finally...our frozen water droplet...with many layers of ice - much like the rings in a tree...falls to the ground - as hail!



What to do if you are caught in a hail storm while in an automobile:

What to do if you are caught in a hail storm while in a building:

What to do if you are caught in a hail storm while outdoors:


Facts about Hail


Is there a way to estimate hail size...or do I have to go outside and measure it?

  • It's often difficult to get an accurate measurement of hail diameter - especially when it's falling
  • The table to the right helps observers estimate the size of hail based on average diameters of common items
  • When in doubt - play it safe and wait until the thunderstorm has moved away before going outside to measure the size of hail


Estimating Hail Size

  • Pea  = 1/4 inch diameter
  • Marble/mothball = 1/2 inch diameter
  • Dime/Penny = 3/4 inch diameter - hail penny size or larger is considered severe
  • Nickel = 7/8 inch
  • Quarter = 1 inch
  • Ping-Pong Ball = 1 1/2 inch
  • Golf Ball = 1 3/4 inches
  • Tennis Ball = 2 1/2 inches
  • Baseball = 2 3/4 inches
  • Tea cup = 3 inches
  • Grapefruit = 4 inches
  • Softball = 4 1/2 inches



Hail indicators and Tornados. The presence of large hail certainly indicates a very strong,  rotating updraft coincident with a strong downdraft within a super cell thunderstorm.  These are classic indicators of increased tornadic potential as very large/giant hail is often observed immediately north of a tornado track.  However, the presence of large hail doesn't always mean a tornado.  Conversely, the absence of large hail doesn't always mean there isn't a risk of tornadoes.:


Dime size hail                            5-10 % chance of a tornado forming in this storm

Quarter size hail             20-25% chance of a tornado forming in this storm

Golf ball size hail                       40-50% chance of a tornado forming in this storm (RED FLAG You should start watching for any rotation with these storms)

Baseball or larger size hail       80-90% chance of a tornado forming in this storm (EXTREME CAUTION tornados are VERY PROBABLE with these storms)



Move Inside, Stay Inside

Hailstones vary greatly in size, but even small ones – driven by gravity and strong winds – pose a danger to anything or anyone caught in a storm. As a storm approaches, put vehicles in the garage and bring pets inside. If you are outdoors, go indoors immediately.

Once you’re indoors, close all drapes, blinds, or shades to prevent broken window glass and hailstones from entering your home. If possible, move to a basement, cellar, or other level of the building not directly below the roof. Stay indoors until the storm has passed.

If you’re on the road during a hailstorm, stay in your vehicle and slow down or stop, as roads may become slippery. Once you have pulled over safely, turn your back to windows or cover yourself with a blanket to protect yourself from broken glass.


Hail Storms Safety Tips:


Treat Hail storms in much the same way you would handle a thunderstorm or tornado. Safety First, Safety Always!


Information from NOAA, Weather.Com and KVII Channel 7 Amarillo Steve Kersh


Safety Alerts are a publication of the information from various sources to share with the community. The information contained in this newsletter has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, and the editors have exercised reasonable care to assure its accuracy. However, Ken does not guarantee that the contents of this publication are correct. We welcome topics of interest from our readers. Material may be rewritten to conform to newsletter space. Material should be addressed to the Ken Oswald, Safety Manager, 54 Saddle, Clovis NM 88101.


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