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How to Prepare for Hailstorms in Michigan

Hail can bring with it significant impact damage as well as still further damage from the accompanying wind and rain. Find out how to protect your home from hail damage.

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Michigan gets more than its fair share of storms. We’ve documented the rainiest cities, the windiest cities, and those at serious risk of flooding. Then there are hailstorms. 

In case you were in doubt, the National Weather Service’s 2020 annual severe weather summary for Michigan documents two tornadoes, 325 high wind reports, and 62 hailstorms.

Looking into NOAA’s storm events database for hail events in 2020, we find that the Detroit area experienced golf ball-sized hail during a storm on August 28. The Grand Rapids area saw penny-sized hail on April 7. Traverse City saw nickel-sized hail on October 13. Toledo gets credit for a full pocket of change: quarter-sized hail on April 7 and May 26, then nickel-sized and penny-sized on October 23. 

What is Hail?

Hail is distinctly different from the sleet we often see. Sleet is actually frozen raindrops that fall directly to the ground. Hail is a solid ball of ice that is formed when raindrops are lifted by an updraft to freezing temperatures at higher altitudes. The ice then drops, picks up more raindrops, and is blown upward again. Each updraft forms a new layer of ice, increasing the hailstone’s size.

The hail drops to the ground only after it overcomes the updraft, either from a reduced amount of wind or because its weight has become sufficient to overcome the wind. Note that instead of falling straight down, the prevailing thunderstorm winds blow the hail at an angle or in the worst-case scenario sideways.

Hail includes quarter-inch or pea size, one-inch or quarter size, and four-inch or softball size. The size is one key aspect of the damage from hail. The other is the speed the hail is traveling. Small size hail travels between nine and 25 mph. Quarter size hail is usually moving at 25 to 40 mph. Hail at four-inch diameter can reach over 100 mph.

As you can tell, hail is not something you can ignore. It’s very important to prepare for those inevitable hailstorms in our state.

How to Prepare for Hailstorms

We’ve pulled together a list of key items to consider when preparing for hailstorms. 

1. Review Your Insurance Coverage

Homeowner’s insurance usually covers hail damage, but often at a different deductible than for the other hazards on your policy. There may also be some exclusions.

Comprehensive coverage also usually covers hail damage. Still, it’s worth your time to verify your coverage for both home and auto. You can also consider options for increasing your coverage for hail damage.

2. Conduct Roof Maintenance

Hail can do significant damage to your roof. Conduct regular maintenance to replace loose and missing shingles. Also, monitor the shingle as the aggregate surface becomes dislodged and washed off over time.

When it’s time to replace your roof, consider impact-resistant shingles that not only provide more protection and last longer but may also warrant insurance discounts.

3. Check Gutters and Downspouts

Gutters and downspouts need to be free of leaves and obstructions to prevent overflow that can fall directly on your foundation. This causes cracks and can lead to leaks. Consider basement waterproofing and sump pumps that catch leaks and prevent flooding.

Lightweight aluminum gutters and downspouts can also be damaged by hail. When it comes to replacing them, consider upgrading to impact-resistant materials. 

4. Trim Trees

Regularly trim your trees and shrubs. Remove dead branches and trees that might get blown over, damaging your home. 

Watch for root growth near your foundation. They can not only expand and damage your basement or crawl space walls but also dry out the soil, causing just as much damage as heavy rain.

5. Add Window Protection

Hail is driven by the thunderstorm winds into the side of your home as well as the roof. It can shatter windows, resulting in glass, hail, rain, and wind entering your home.

One form of protection is exterior shutters that can be closed prior to a storm. There are also impact-resistant windows. Plus, closing interior coverings such as drapes, blinds, and shades can prevent broken glass from inflicting further damage inside your home.

6. Use Hail-resistant Siding

As well as breaking your windows, that same hail is having an impact on your home’s siding. If your home has vinyl, aluminum, or wood siding, you’ll probably see dents, cracks, and chipping.

Hail-resistant replacements include fiber cement, engineered wood, or steel siding. This type of siding may also be eligible for insurance discounts.

7. Park Your Vehicles in the Garage

Protecting your car can be as simple as moving it into the garage. If you’re on the road, try to find an underground parking garage. There are also protective automobile covers that can prove very helpful.

While you may have hail damage coverage for your vehicles, it’s so much better to avoid the damage in the first place instead of dealing with the claims process and the time needed for repairs.

8. Install Hail Guards 

To protect our air conditioning condensers and heat pumps, you can install a hail guard that is constructed from a metal mesh material. It allows airflow while protecting from hail damage. Rooftop vents and skylights can also be covered with guards to prevent damage.

We’re hopeful that hail won’t damage your home’s foundation. Yet everything else that comes along with it can do significant damage from wind to heavy rain. That rainwater can also collect near your home’s foundation, finding any cracks to enter your basement or crawl space. 

We recommend that you consult the professionals at FSM for a free inspection and repair estimate to identify any issues with your foundation, basement, or crawl space that need attention in preparation for hail, wind, and heavy rains.

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