The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) recently reported that insurance claims resulting from hail-storm damage increased 84 percent in 2012 from their 2010 level. In 2010, there were 467,602 hail damage claims filed. That number increased to 689,267 in 2011 and to 861,597 in 2012—an overall increase of 84 percent from 2010 to 2012.
(These hailstones, pictured above, fell at a farm in central New Hampshire in late June, causing widespread damage to crops. Fortunately, damage to buildings and vehicles was minimal.)
So, just what is hail? Hail is a form of solid precipitation. It consists of balls or irregular lumps of ice, each of which is called a hailstone. Hail is possible within most thunderstorms, as it is produced by cumulonimbi, usually within two nautical miles of a parent storm. Hail formation requires environments of strong, upward motion of air and lowered heights of the freezing level.
Unlike ice pellets, hailstones are layered and can be irregular-shaped and clumped together. Hail is composed of transparent ice or alternating layers of transparent and translucent ice at least 1 millimeter (0.039 in) thick, which are deposited upon the hailstone as it travels through the cloud, suspended aloft by air with strong upward motion until its weight overcomes the updraft and falls to the ground. Although the diameter of hail is varied, in the United States, the average observation of damaging hail is between 2.5 cm (1 in) and golf ball-sized (1.75 in).
According to the report which was published in a recent issue of Claims Journal, more than 2 million hail damage claims were processed from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2012. During this period, the top five states generating hail damage claims were Texas (320,823), Missouri (138,857), Kansas (126,490), Colorado (118,118) and Oklahoma (114,168). The claims activity parallels the hail storm activity as posted on the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center. In 2010, 2011 and 2012, Texas was the state with the most hail storm events with 557, 741 and 795, respectively.
As everyone has become aware, the nation has experienced severe snow, wind, tornado and hail-storms that are occurring with more intensity and affecting wider regions of the country. While scientists debate why these storms occur, no one argues with their effects—extensive property damage and, many times, loss of life. Property damage, as a result of a hailstorm, can be as minimal as a few broken shingles to total destruction of buildings. Oftentimes, damage may occur without the homeowner or business owner being aware. Roof surfaces can take a beating from hailstones, and the damage can often go unnoticed until larger problems arise.
Although the top five states generating hail damage are located in the western, midwestern and southern United States, hail-storms can and do occur on the east coast and throughout Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont. So, when hail strikes, be sure to perform a thorough examination of your property to identify damage and to avoid future problems. Be sure to contact your insurance company immediately to file a claim, and make certain you document the damage with photographs before any work is done to repair the damage. If you have a large, complicated claim, be sure to seek the help of a public adjuster to help you navigate the insurance claim process and obtain the fairest settlement. And, of course, be safe. Do not attempt to go outside during a hailstorm, and enlist the help of a qualified contractor to inspect your roof following a damaging storm.