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Learn what goes into studying hail to better prevent damage to our homes, cars and more

Smaller hailstones can even "whittle away some of the granules on your asphalt shingle roof, making it age a little faster."
Posted at 4:28 PM, Mar 26, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-26 17:28:45-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — If you've been there before, this scenario won't be hard to imagine.

Think: You're sitting inside your home and hear hail pelting your roof. Then, your thoughts turn to your car and everything else outside.

3 News Now's Mary Nelson spoke with Ian Giammanco, Ph.D., a lead research meteorologist with the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety as hail experts from across North America gathered at a research center in South Carolina ahead of Severe Weather Awareness Week in Nebraska and Iowa.

"This foundational work plays a role in helping us understand how to design and construct building materials to better resist hail and a lot of that comes from how we test those materials," Giammanco explained.

The process includes creating hailstones and firing them at different surfaces, like shingles, then studying the sort of damage done by stones of different sizes.

"Down around the 'severe' mark, which is one inch or maybe a little bit smaller, those hailstones typically don't dent our cars. They don't cause big dents or cracks in our roofs. But when they come in large numbers, they can also whittle away some of the granules on your asphalt shingle roof, making it age a little faster," Giammanco said.

He added that hail measuring 1.5" can dent cars and damage older roofs, as 2" hail is the threshold where most modern materials suffer.

"By the time we get up to 2.5" and 3", now you're talking about extremely damaging hailstones. Those are the ones that could even crack your roof decking," he cautioned.

In the Midwest, we know it can get worse.

Looking at our neighborhoods last year, the National Weather Service Omaha took 47 hail reports ranging from 1" to 3".

Some of the largest stones which fell in 2023:

Thurman, IA: 3" in April
Pawnee County, NE: 4.5" in May
Fremont, NE: 4" in July

Soon, Giammanco and his team will return to the field to study hail. Combined with what's learned in the lab, they hope to impact the sorts of damage we see in our neighborhoods each severe weather season.

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