© 2024 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Hail can be destructive. How does ice form when it's so hot out?

 Austin resident Bill Butler holds hail that broke his window on Sunday night.
Courtesy of Bill Butler
Austin resident Bill Butler holds hail that broke his window on Sunday night.

Williamson County resident Gary Lansford was driving on I-35 Sunday night when he had what he calls one of the scariest moments of his life.

“My wife and our two dogs were under a blanket in the middle row of our car," he said, "and we’re just praying and hoping it would stop."

Hail shattered multiple windows of Gary Lansford's car as he drove on I-35 Sunday night.
Courtesy of Gary Lansford
Hail shattered multiple windows of Gary Lansford's car as he drove on I-35 Sunday night.

Hailstones the size of billiard balls shattered multiple windows of his car. Lansford said he and his wife had minor cuts from the glass.

"The car is pretty much fully damaged," he said. "I think it’s a total loss at this point, but, I mean, we don’t really care about that right now. We’re just happy that it didn’t become worse than it was."

High heat and humidity fueled Sunday night's storm, which flung baseball-sized hail across the region. The hail was formed by raindrops carried into the upper atmosphere where they froze. When there's lots of wind, like on Sunday, the hail goes up and down, adding layers of ice. The more trips the hail makes up into the atmosphere, the bigger it gets.

“It's mostly just ice water vapor in the atmosphere, either condensing into liquid or freezing directly onto the surface of the hailstone,” NWS meteorologist Keith White said. “So usually for those larger hailstorm stones, they're cycling through the storm several times, going up, going back down. And while that's happening, they're picking up additional rain droplets that are freezing on it. And the longer that it's able to be held up by a strong updraft in a storm, the bigger it could possibly get.”

If one of those hailstones damaged your property and the damage is more than your deductible, you may want to file an insurance claim.

Take pictures of any damage and try to limit further damage, for example, by covering openings with plastic to keep rain out.

Ben Gonzalez, a spokesperson with the Texas Department of Insurance, warned not to throw anything away until after you’ve discussed it with your insurance company.

He said most homeowners’ insurance policies in Central Texas cover damage caused by wind and hail. Check the declarations page at the front of your policy document for coverage and deductible information.

“Sometimes after a storm you'll get people going door to door offering to go check out your roof,” he said. “That's not saying they're illegitimate, but it's always best if you make that call [to your insurance company]. And try to use local contractors or builders to, to check out the damage if there is any, just to avoid any kind of fraud.”

Gonzalez said there may be some back and forth with your insurance company over how much they are willing to pay for repairs. He also recommended getting multiple bids on repairs, checking contractor references with the Better Business Bureau, and not paying for all of the work up front.

Gonzalez said living in an area that gets hit by multiple weather-related events will increase the cost of insurance. That gets baked into the insurance companies’ prices.

Copyright 2023 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.