Watch: Windshield blasted with tennis ball-sized hail during Oklahoma storm

Photo: Benjamin Jurkovich

It's not just tornadoes and lightning when severe storms hit Torando Alley -- hail can play a big part in a storm's fury as well.

Benjamin Jurkovich found out first hand what happens when you end up under a massive hailstorm.

He was driving near Ada, Oklahoma at the end of March when a storm carrying tennis ball-sized hail hit the city. The stones not only cracked his windshield, but also caused large breaks in the car's body frame.

Hail forms when rain droplets get pushed higher into the atmosphere by strong upward winds. But these type of large hail storms require extremely strong updrafts to form at speeds you'll only find in supercell thunderstorms.

As the rain droplets go higher, it freezes into an ice stone known as hail. It then becomes heavier, and falls downward, picking up another coating of raindrops on its way down.

If the updrafts are strong enough, it'll blow the hail back up again, where the coating freezes, making the hail larger, then falling back downward. This process repeats until the hail is heavier than the updraft can support, when it'll finally fall to the ground. The stronger the updraft, the larger the hail stone will become. It's said it takes an updraft of 56 mph for a hailstone to become golf-ball sized so imagine how strong the updrafts were where Jurkovich was.

With the hail comes more $$$ insurance premiums

Living in large hail country comes with a price. You can imagine when a massive hailstorm rolls across the city, the damage left behind can be immense from shattered windows to dented frames. That made me wonder: What's it like to insure a car there?

Tom Heiger with the Hieger Insurance Agency in Wichita, Kansas was kind enough to help illustrate the unique challenges they face out there.

"Overall we pay higher rates here in Kansas (than Washington)," he told me. "Tornado Alley doesn't help us one bit, but we also have some of the largest losses due to high winds and hail."

Insurance rates vary on a number of factors, especially comprehensive insurance, which is what covers the car for damages not caused by a collision, such as theft or weather.

But to get an idea, I had him give me a quote for my car if I were to insure it in Wichita, and then I had my car quoted locally around the Seattle area where hail is small and harmless to see a relative difference in the regions.

The results? With a $100 deductible, I'd pay about $225 per 6 months in Kansas, whereas it's about $55 per 6 months in Downtown Seattle (even a little less out in the suburbs). Then again, liability rates are higher in urban areas but all other things equal, the hail makes it a bit more expensive to live in the heart of the country.

On the other hand, windshield repair companies must do a booming business out there!

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off