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CLEVELAND - Hail can be one of the most destructive parts of a severe thunderstorm.

For homeowners, a severe hail storm can do a lot of damage to a roof. In the fields, farmers can quickly lose entire crops. And for those with cars caught in a hail storm, a variety of damage can occur.

Hail often shatters windshields and breaks back car windows, cracks headlights and leaves major dents to the tune of an average cost per claim between $2,000 and $3,000 according to carinsurance.com

The National Weather Service says a hail storm can cause all this damage and last an average of six minutes. In some instances, the amount of hail on the ground can become several inches deep and resemble a winter snowfall.

Hail stones start as water droplets that are forced upward into a storm cloud by strong winds called updrafts. As these droplets go higher, they reach colder air and begin to freeze and form hail stones. The stronger the storm, the higher the stones rise and bump into other hail stones, stick together and grow larger.

Eventually, the hail becomes too heavy for the air to support and they fall to earth.

Weather observers are trained to either measure or accurately estimate the size of hail to report to their local National Weather Service office. When the hail stones become larger than one inch, or the size of a quarter, an important criteria is reached for a severe thunderstorm or tornado warning to be issued.

You can be your own weather observer this summer and estimate the size of hail when it falls in your backyard. By using the chart below, you can accurately determine the size of hail by comparing it to some common items.

The following hail sizes are officially recognized by the National Weather Service...

  • 1/4" - Pea
  • 1/2" - Marble, Mothball
  • 3/4" - Dime, Penny
  • 1" - Quarter, Nickel
  • 1 1/4" - Half-dollar
  • 1 1/2" - Walnut
  • 1 3/4" - Golf Ball
  • 2" - Hen Egg
  • 2 1/2" - Tennis Ball
  • 2 3/4" - Baseball
  • 3" - Tea Cup
  • 4" - Grapefruit
  • 4 1/2" - Softball

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Follow Frank Macek on Twitter @frankmacekwkyc

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