Blasted by hail: Learning from indoor storms

IBHS Indoor hailstorm demonstrationI recently attended the first-ever indoor hailstorm. That’s right – an indoor hailstorm! Why? Every year, hail causes billions of dollars in damage to property and crops. An indoor storm like this can be studied in detail to find ways to make hail-resistant structures and reduce the destruction from hailstorms.

It was an amazing experience. Not only were insurance industry representatives like me there, but national media including “The Today Show,” (which broadcast it live). “The Weather Channel,” “Discovery Channel” and “This Old House” were there as well.

This storm was a test created by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IIBHS) to learn how different building materials withstand a hailstorm’s damage. For five minutes and some 9,000 hailstones, the “storm” pelted a house, a car, outdoor furniture and nearby toys. The only thing missing was a thunderstorm.

To deliver the hailstones with the same intensity as a real storm, IBHS engineers designed a series of multi-barreled hail cannons mounted 60 feet above the research center’s test chamber. When the storm started, the cannons were firing hailstones at the rate of 1,800 per minute at speeds up to 76 mph!

IBHS Indoor hailstorm demonstrationThe test structure had different building materials to compare performance. The roof featured asphalt shingles, impact-resistant architectural shingles, metal roofing and metal-over-shingles. Standard vinyl siding and fiber-cement siding were used, as well as vinyl and aluminum windows and aluminum gutters and downspouts. During the demonstration, the entire structure was pelted evenly with hailstones.

IBHS can now study the damage to the different materials. The windshield on the car for example, was shattered, and the test home received significant damage. We also learned while metal roofing does a great job keeping water out and will typically outlast traditional shingles, it shows every little ding from the hail.

American Family supports the work of IBHS because of our commitment to loss prevention. More research is needed to create building materials and techniques that can better withstand damage from storms. Our goal is to make homes safer by building them stronger, not cheaper.

Through our membership with IBHS, American Family helps fund research addressing the impact of hail and other natural disasters, and can lead to the establishment of better building standards. The end result helps manage costs through reduced property insurance losses, which helps keep insurance more affordable for everyone. 

by Bill Eberle on Tue, Apr 09 2013 8:54 am
Posted by Bill Eberle on Tue, Apr 09 2013 8:54 amBill Eberle is a product design senior specialist with American Family Insurance.

1 Comment

Rathod said on Aug 22, 2013
I couldn’t agree more. In fact tentisg is already underway and just yesterday, October 18th, IBHS had their Grand Opening to the public.A reporter from the Wall Street Journal was there and ran a story in today’s Wall Street Journal entitled, .

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