What You Should Do When Driving Through a Hail Storm

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Alberta-hail-stormWhen indoors, hail may not seem like much of an issue at that moment, but golf-ball size hailstones can be extremely difficult and scary to drive through when they pop up without notice. And as many people who've filed car insurance claims in Alberta know, these events have been known to happen in the province.

The following tips should provide drivers with some helpful advice for what they should do when the skies open up and hail comes pouring down.

Stay calm. Don’t panic!

Perhaps the most important aspect is to remain calm and not panic. When a sense of hysteria sets in, it tends to build upon itself, oftentimes causing drivers to tense up and not take the steps they need to in order to get out of harm's way and navigate the road effectively. Thus, try to take a deep breath when in the midst of a hail storm.

Pull off to the side of the road

As soon as hail starts coming down, it's crucial to get to an area along the road that's far away from oncoming traffic. If the only place to go to is the side of the road, try to pull off several feet away from the breakdown lane. Ideally, if there's an overpass, try to get beneath it and wait out the storm until it stops. It's crucial to stop driving not only because it's exceedingly difficult to see, but also because driving heightens the impact of hailstones. In other words, the damage done will be more significant when moving as opposed to staying still.

Position your car so the windshield bears brunt of hail

Something else that motorists should try to do, if possible, is determine which way the wind is blowing and where the brunt of the stones are hitting. If this can be determined, park the car so that the hail is hitting the windshield. Federal law requires that windshields be reinforced so that heavy objects are less likely to penetrate the interior. The side and rear windows, meanwhile, aren't as strong. As a result, if these windows are hit, they will sustain more damage than the windshield.

Remain in your car

Another key component of staying safe during a hail storm is remaining in the car for the duration. Not only can hailstones be large - some with diameters that are larger than baseballs - but they are also quite hard, as they're essentially frozen pellets of rain. These can cause injury when vehicles are exposed to them, especially when they hit in rapid succession. Stay in the interior of the vehicle throughout the event and then wait several minutes afterward before exiting to ensure it's really gone.

In a rare number of instances, hailstones may be so damaging that they can breach the interior of the vehicle. In these cases, lie down and keep one's back facing the windows. Try to find any type of cover that's inside, such as a blanket, coat or jacket.

Be ready for hail storms in 2013

If this year is anything like what happened last year, hail storms are bound to take place. In fact, forecasters have predicted that the season may be especially active.

Jack Boston, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather.com, told the Calgary Sun that the southern portion of the province could see most of the action.

"We think high pressure is going to be dominant," said Boston.

He added that severe weather overall will likely be more prevalent over the course of the summer.

In recent weeks, flooding has been the dominant problem, leaving historic levels of damage in Alberta. Meanwhile, a record amount of rain fell in Toronto in a five-hour span on July 5, snarling traffic and causing hundreds of thousands of power outages.