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Understanding Hail Storms and How to Measure Hail Size

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While various forms of precipitation are often forecasted, when a meteorologist says there’s a possibility of hail, cautions are raised to whole new heights. Hail can leave vehicles damagedĀ  and may even break the glass of a windshield in addition to totaling a car.

What exactly is hail? Hail is caused by small ice particles tiding up and down the inside of a thunderstorm. Hailstones vary in size, ranging from a pea-size to the size of a marble, to golf-ball-size, and even baseball size. Hail is said to be the cause of $1 billion in damage to crops and property each year.

Because hail is such a hazard, if one is driving and caught in a severe hailstorm, it is advisable to pull over until the storm passes. If it’s a really bad storm, get on the floor and cover your head (especially your eyes) from breaking glass.

You’ll often hear meteorologists and reporters refer to the size of hail in relation to similar items. Use this list to reference hail size:

  • Pea = 1/4 inch diameter
  • Marble = 1/2 inch diameter
  • Dime/Penny = 3/4 inch diameter (Hail this size or larger is considered severe)
  • Nickel = 7/8 inch
  • Quarter = 1 inch
  • Ping-Pong Ball = 1 1/2 inches
  • Golf Ball = 1 3/4 inches
  • Tennis Ball = 2 1/2 inches
  • Baseball = 2 3/4 inches
  • Teacup = 3 inchees
  • Grapefruit = 4 inches
  • Softball = 4 1/2 inches

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