Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=220340
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According to the NOAA, Illinois was 11th in the country for major hail events in 2011


Hail damage a leading cause for insurance claims in Illinois

by Bryan Ives
Apr 18, 2013


Some forecasts call for hail in Chicago on Thursday night. What may seem like a trivial event is no laughing matter, as hail is a leading cause of property damage in Illinois.

According to Bloomington, Ill. based State Farm Insurance, which insures one in three homes and automobiles in Illinois, policyholders filed 41,000 claims related to hail and wind losses in Illinois in 2012. Only Texas, with 47,000 claims, had more claims.

 “When people think of storms they think of wind. Hail can cause quite a bit of damage,” State Farm spokeswoman Missy Dundov said. “You don’t realize how much damage it can cause. You might have little pellets of hail that don’t do a lot, but we’ve seen it as large as softball size so if that hits your home or hits your car, you can imagine the type of damage it can cause.”

Hail and wind cost State Farm policy owners $3.9 billion in 2012. The average cost per claim in Illinois was $8,835. In comparison, water claims cost an average of $9,373 and fire averaged $52,789 per claim.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration reported there were 229 major hail events in Illinois in 2012. That was the 11th most in the country. Most hail events occur in the spring according to the National Weather Service.

“You still have enough cool air around and the middle of the summer you can get some bigger storm, but it’s so warm and humid that the hail would melt before reaching the surface,” said Eric Lenning, science and operations officer for the NWS in Romeoville, Ill.

“But in the spring time when you get stronger storms it’s a little bit easier for those hail stones to work themselves all the way down.”

Precipitation, no matter the time of year, starts as ice high up in the atmosphere. Hail forms when updrafts lift the frozen precipitation even higher. The precipitation accumulates more water and as it falls towards the earth, colder temperatures prevent the precipitation from fully melting before it lands.

Hail damage is typically unavoidable, but there are indications a hailstorm might occur. As the weather warms up, the threat of hail increases and the volatile weather conditions experienced recently in Chicago lend themselves to producing hail.  

“As we’ve seen the last few weeks it seems like we’re kind of stuck under the pattern where we get system after system moving overhead,” Lenning said. “We’ve had a lot of rain this spring and if that continues and the storm track continues to go overhead then that’s just going to increase the chance for more severe weather, severe storms and large hail.”