Safety tips to keep in mind during hail storm forecast

Photos: Earl Coetzee

Hail storms can happen when you least expect it, like we saw yesterday afternoon in Bloemfontein.

Isolated showers and thunder showers are predicted for the central part of the Free State today following a severe hailstorm in Bloemfontein and surrounding areas late yesterday afternoon. The storm caused considerable damage to buildings and vehicles, blocking some streets. A weather predictor from the South African Weather Service in Bloemfontein, Tumi Phatudi, says a conversion zone that had its origin outside the country caused the thunderstorm that created havoc in the city last night.

Here are a variety of important tips from Dialdirect on what people should do during the hail season.

• Keep tabs on the weather forecast, news apps, websites and social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter which inform you about an approaching hailstorm.

• If you are in a place where there is shelter, it is important to stay there until the storm subsides.

When driving on the road:

• Do not park your vehicle under a tree as there is risk of falling debris or branches falling on your vehicle.

• Look for cover when you are caught off-guard a hail storm, this can be under a covered car park or petrol station. Drivers also need to be cautious when pulling over, hazard lights should be on so that the safety of both the driver and others on the road is not put at risk.

• Stay in your vehicle until the storm has passed.

• If there is no shelter, pull over when it is safe to do so. Hail damage to your vehicle is inevitable, but it is however safer not to drive during a hail storm as visibility is poor, roads are slippery and drivers risk aquaplaning through deep pools of hail and water.

• Since temperatures drop during a hail storm, vehicle windows will fog up and hamper visibility. It is critical that the vehicle’s defogger functions properly.

When you are in your house:

• You must ensure that gutters are cleaned and free from debris so that ice and water can move from the roof.

• Outdoor equipment and furniture should be moved undercover when a heavy storm is forecast.

• Structures of roofs should be monitored thoroughly to ensure they do not buckle under the weight of the hail in the event of a blocked drainage system.

Warwick Scott-Rodger, head of Dial- Direct Insurance, said that hail damage to vehicles were the highest. Major hail storms resulted in millions of rands in damage to household equipment such as windows, roofs, sliding doors, skylights, garden and outdoor equipment.

“Make sure that both your vehicle, home owners and household insurance adequately covers you against damage to property caused by hail,’ Scott-Rodger said.