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Big or small, hailstorms create financial problems for just about everyone

The damage hail leaves behind
Posted at 6:21 PM, Apr 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-19 19:47:52-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Hail. You hear it hitting your home. You wonder if your car or roof will be the same once the hail stops falling from the sky. 

Let’s start with what hail is. Hail usually consists of concentric layers of clear ice and compact snow. It can range from pea-sized to baseball-sized.

Hail causes an average of more than $1 billion in crop and property losses per year.

Hailstorms occur most frequently in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming, and Kansas. These states are known as “Hail Alley.”

A science lesson

Hailstones grow by colliding with supercooled water drops. Supercooled water will freeze on contact with ice crystals, frozen raindrops, dust or some other nuclei. 

Thunderstorms that have a strong updraft keep lifting the hailstones up to the top of the cloud where they encounter more supercooled water and continue to grow. 

The hail falls when the thunderstorm's updraft can no longer support the weight of the ice or the updraft weakens. The stronger the updraft, the larger the hailstone can grow.

Hailstones can have layers, like an onion, if they travel up and down in an updraft, or they can have few or no layers if they are "balanced" in an updraft. One can tell how many times a hailstone traveled to the top of the storm by counting the layers. 

Hailstones can begin to melt and then re-freeze together, forming large and very irregularly shaped hail.

The damage

Hail can dent cars, destroy a roof, and eliminate a perfectly good corn plant. The damage hailstorms leave behind can vary with no one having the exact same results.

“One car can have more dents, some cars have less with the exact same storm, exact same time,” said Jason Barrett, who is the general sales manager at Premier Mazda. “It’s almost like a big jigsaw puzzle.”

Barrett said a hailstorm can sometimes benefit consumers because you can find really good deals if the hail creates some dings in the cars on the lot. 

“In the long run, if you are going to keep it forever, it’s really not going to be that big of a difference because, unfortunately, you will pick up more dings in a parking lot,” said Barrett.

See more stories from Surviving the Storm

When hail hits your roof, size really does matter. 

41 Action News talked with Shawn McAlpin of Top Shelf Roofing. He said 65-70 percent of his business involves fixing hail marks. 

“If it is small hail, inch size, for an extended period of time, then it kind of sandblasts the granules off the shingles and still has a detrimental effect that would require a replacement,” said McAlpin. “Golf ball-sized hail, 2", hen egg, 2.5", baseball-sized, 3", definitively causes damage in a short amount of time.”

Hail damage to a roof can range from hundreds to even thousands of dollars. says any damage to your roof should be fixed by a qualified licensed professional, meaning don't try to DIY the damage. Roof damage costs, on average, around $700, but if your shingles need to be repaired or replaced, the costs can be as high as $8,400.

What can a homeowner do if hail pounds their house? McAlpin said to contact a roofer that's licensed in professional storm restoration first before calling your insurance company. McAlpin said this allows homeowners to avoid having a claim if there is not enough damage for it to be totaled.

When hail shreds apart a cornfield, consumers won’t see the difference at the supermarket. But the farmer will. 

James Ward, who is part of the AG Partners Co-op, said it can take up to 10 days for hail damage to show up on stems and leaves in the form of brown spots. 

“If we had enough hail to affect the consumer, then we have had a bad year,” said Ward. “Basically, hail does not affect the consumer, but it sure can affect the farmer.”