The average hail storm lasts about five minutes, but according to the National Weather Services, the damage left behind adds up to $1 billion every year.
Hail is formed when raindrops pass through currents of freezing air and turn into small blocks of ice. Most of the time they measure only a fraction of an inch but they can also reach the destructive size of a grapefruit or softball.
Damage to sheet metal can cost thousands of dollars to repair and replacing a broken windshield can add up to hundreds of dollars. Don't expect a check from your insurance company unless you've purchased comprehensive coverage, the kind that also covers other types of weather-related damage, theft and vandalism.
If you are covered, you have the right to get your car repaired to the condition it was in before the hail damaged it. There are two ways to accomplish this: the traditional method of body repair - hammering and painting - or paintless dent repair.
To prevent hail damage, the Better Business Bureau recommends taking the following precautions:
- Park your car in a garage or under a roof before the storm begins.
- If you have to leave it outside, cover your car with a thick blanket to minimize the impact of hail.
- If driving, look for a covered safe place and wait for the storm to pass.
- If there's nowhere to go, stop your car. The impact will be stronger if your car is in motion.
- After the storm, assess the damage and call your insurance company. It can be difficult to spot.