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It's hail season. Are you prepared?

Hailstorms strike with little warning. One moment you’re driving down the highway, sun shining brightly; the next, dark clouds roll in, threatening a thunderstorm or even a tornado. All of a sudden hailstones the size of marbles are slamming into your windshield.

If you live in a hail-prone region like the Canadian Prairies, you’re likely already well aware of this. But there are things you can do to protect your property and mitigate damage, both before and during the storm.


What you need to know about hail season

Hailstones form in the type of warm, humid weather that creates thunderstorms. Updrafts move water droplets into the clouds where they encounter freezing temperatures. Across Canada, hail season typically runs from June to September.

Hailstones can reach anywhere from the size of a pea to the size of a grapefruit—and hit the ground at a speed of 130 km/h, according to Public Safety Canada. Worst of all, they often have jagged edges which can cause extensive damage to property, vehicles and crops, as well as injury to people, pets and farm animals.

“Hail occurs right across Canada, though more frequently in Alberta, the southern Prairies and southern Ontario. For many Canadians, a hailstorm is an intriguing rarity, but for farmers whose crops are crushed—or other Canadians whose homes and cars are damaged—a hailstorm can translate into a financial burden,” says Public Safety Canada.

Some regions can expect multiple hailstorms in a single season. Alberta’s Hail Alley—which stretches from Rocky Mountain House to High River—is one of those regions. That’s why a team with Western University’s Northern Hail Project (NHP) conducted research there last summer in an effort to improve hail forecasting. On August 1, 2022, the NHP discovered a record-breaking hailstone for Canada, measuring 12.3 cm in diameter and weighing 292.71 grams.

NHP is aiming to create forecasting models that can better predict destructive storms. At the same time, governments and insurance companies are also working on “cloud seeding,” a chemical solution aimed at creating smaller, less damaging hailstones.

Prepping for hail season

While efforts to better predict hailstorms and reduce the size and severity of hailstones may help, what can the average person do now to mitigate damage—especially those who live in a hail-prone region?

Along with the hail itself, storms often include strong winds and heavy rainfall, which can damage trees, outdoor equipment and patio furniture. Melting hail combined with heavy rain can lead to flooding. And damage to roofing that goes undetected could result in more extensive water damage to your home over time.

Impact-resistant roofing

If you live in a hail-prone region, consider installing a hail-resistant roof. If you’re renovating your home or repairing your roof after an insured loss, it’s also an opportunity to make your home more resilient.

With Wawanesa Stronger Home coverage, we will pay the increased cost to repair or replace your roof or exterior siding with more resilient materials when a loss occurs. Learn more.

Technically, no roofing materials are hail-proof, but certain materials are resistant to impact, such as coated metals—especially when compared to traditional asphalt or fibreglass shingles. Look for Class 4 shingles, which are rated highest for impact resistance.

Metal roofing systems also hold up well to hail—as an added bonus, they’re handy in winter, helping to shed snow and avoid ice dams. Better yet, they can last up to 50 years. Other options include slate, concrete and even rubber, which is malleable and less likely to be damaged in extreme weather. Rubber roofs are becoming more popular, since they can last  30 to 50 years, handle extreme temperature swings, resist moss growth and return to their original shape after impact.

Other protective measures

Hail can also damage equipment on your roof, such as HVAC units and vents. Consider installing protective shields or screens over any rooftop equipment. You could also invest in temporary or permanent storm shutters for your windows, sliding doors and skylights to protect the glass from shattering.

In spring, clear your eavestroughs and vents of debris and use binoculars to inspect the roof for damage and missing shingles. If you have an attic, inspect it for any signs of potential water damage. If repairs are required, hire a licensed roofing contractor. Your roof should also be inspected by a professional after 10 years—though if you live in a hail-prone region, you may want to consider more frequent inspections. And, of course, talk to your insurance broker to make sure you have adequate coverage.

What to do during a hailstorm

If a hailstorm is approaching, or you’re suddenly caught up in one, head for cover and shelter in place. If possible, park your car in a garage or carport. If that’s not possible, a car hail protector or even thick blankets can help to protect against damage. Use storm shutters if you have them, close your blinds or shades, and stay away from the windows. You should also stay away from metal objects and corded electronics to avoid electrical hazards.

If you’re driving, pull into a covered parking lot or gas station if possible. Otherwise, pull off the road and turn on your hazards; park at an angle so the hail is hitting the reinforced windshield rather than the back and side windows. Stay in your vehicle until the hail has passed, and keep your face turned away from the windows—as tempting as it is to watch the storm. If you have a jacket handy, use it to cover your face in case the windows shatter.

After the storm

Even after the storm passes, you’re not necessarily in the clear. A power outage could cause a power surge, so turn off electronics and appliances to avoid damage and prevent fires. If your property has suffered any damages, document it by taking photos or videos as soon as possible. Then contact your insurance broker for next steps.

While we can’t prevent extreme weather events, we can expect weather events to increase in severity and duration. That’s why Wawanesa now has climate adaptability coverages to help homeowners be more resilient to our changing climate. Speak with your insurance broker for more information.

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