America Camping Xplorers

hail, ice rain, big



Hail from a thunderstorm can be dangerous. High winds within the thunderclouds whip particles up and down through various temperatures. At low levels, they pick up moisture. At high elevations, the moisture that has accumulated on particles freezes. As they grow heavy enough, they fall into warmer, moist air and pick up more moisture. If the winds are strong enough, they are whipped back up and the new layer of moisture freezes. Hails speed depends on its position in the cloud’s updraft and it’s mass. This determines the varying thicknesses of the layers of the hailstone. The stronger the winds within the cloud, the larger and heavier the hailstones grow.

    Small hail is mostly a nuisance and may cause some pain if you are caught out in it. You can usually get pretty good protection from small hail under small trees and bushes or even a tent or awning. As the hail gets larger, the hazard increases. Golf-ball sized hail will dent vehicles, damage roofs, and break windows and windshields. Tents and fabric awnings are little protection and will be severely damaged by hail of this size.

    Even larger hailstones have been recorded, some bigger than a baseball. Imagine having one of those landing on your head!  If you encounter a hailstorm, seek shelter immediately. If you are on the road and the hail gets bigger than a dime, you may want to get under a freeway bridge before it breaks your windshield or damages your vehicle, just be aware in low visibility conditions that no one slams into you. Make sure none of your vehicles block traffic on roadway by pulling clear without getting stuck in soft soil.

     If you are in camp, about all you can do is get yourself and any equipment under any shelter you can find and wait it out. The roof of your RV or other vehicle may be dented by large hailstones but at least they’ll keep them off of your head. Tents will provide protection against small hail, but if it heads toward golf ball size, you might want to get in or crawl under your vehicle or other sturdy protection until it stops if you don’t have any other safe place.

    If you’re out on the trails on your ATV, horse, or on foot, seek any shelter you can find. A cave or a rock overhang would provide the best protection in some areas because if there is the likeability of lightning, you won’t want to choose huddling under a large tree as it is a good conductor. You don’t want your body or anything that is important to you to become the highest point around. Even fairly small hailstones can dent vehicles and break windows. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do if you’re caught out in a hailstorm. Get your vehicle under some kind of protection if you can. A bridge (good visibility) or an overpass (low traffic) or the canopy at a gas station provides the most protection, but trees can slow or divert at least some of the hailstones although being under trees may subject you to falling branches from high winds that often accompany thunder storms, (lightning) so pick your spot carefully.

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