by Anita Foster, Chief Communications Officer, American Red Cross North Texas Region
Tornado talk is happening all across the Metroplex today – and it should. We are under a rare “Particularly Dangerous Situation” (PDS) Tornado Watch until midnight tonight. A PDS is only issued when professional meteorologists at the Storm Prediction Center believe that the area in question could see a considerable tornado outbreak. #NotComforting when your city is in that box! But with these strong storms come more than tornadoes.
Few people think through their plan if they get caught in a hailstorm. And believe it or not, hailstorms can be some of the most damaging storms in our area. Like me, you might remember the 1995 hailstorm that hit Mayfest in Fort Worth, Tex. Hail stones measured 4″ in diameter, injured hundreds of people and as the storm system turned into a flash flood, it claimed the lives of 13 Texans. Hailstorms can be just as deadly and just as dangerous as tornadoes so let’s prep for them now. I found this scary video from Oklahoma City that shows the power of a hailstorm (watch for at least 1:30 to see the build-up), and then I’ve listed some great tips from Safe America below to help keep you safe.
What to do if you are caught in a hail storm while in an automobile:
- Most importantly, stop driving. If you see a safe place close-by (like inside a garage, under a highway overpass or under a service station awning), drive to it as soon as you can. Make sure you pull completely off the highway.
- Do NOT leave the vehicle until it stops hailing. Your car might get dented, but unlike you, the car won’t get a concussion.
- Stay away from car windows. Cover your eyes with something, like a piece of clothing. If possible, get onto the floor faced down or lay down on the seat with your back to the windows.
- Put very small children under you and cover their eyes.
What to do if you are caught in a hail storm while in a building:
- Stay inside until the hail stops.
- Stay away from windows, especially those being struck by hail.
- Account for all family members, building occupants, pets, etc.
- Do not go outside for any reason. Large hail can cause serious or even fatal injuries.
- To avoid the danger of electrocution from lightning, avoid using phones and electrical appliances during a severe storm
What to do if you are caught in a hail storm while outdoors:
- Seek shelter immediately. If you can’t find something to protect your entire body, find something to protect your head.
- Stay out of culverts and lowland areas that may suddenly fill with water.
- Seeking shelter under trees should be a last resort. It is common during severe storms for trees to lose branches. Also, large isolated trees attract lightning.
Facts about Hail
- The hail season varies around the United States. Generally, it runs March through October, with the majority of hail storms occurring May through August.
- Hail is primarily an afternoon or evening phenomenon. Most severe hailstorms occur between 1:00 P.M. and 9:00 P.M.
- Hailstorms rarely last more than 15 minutes. The median duration is 6 minutes.
- The most common size for damaging hail is 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. The most common size for hail in Colorado is 1/4 inches.
- The largest documented hailstone fell in Kansas. It was 5 1/2” in diameter and weighed nearly 2 pounds!
Weather is so uncertain, and sometimes unnerving when we don’t know what will happen, but no matter what, we can be ready. So on top of prepping for tornadoes, think through how you would survive hail’s fury too. Be safe, everyone, and if you need us tonight because of hail, high winds or tornadoes, we’ll be tweeting from @RedCrossDFW.