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Severe Weather Awareness Week: Hail

Created: 04/22/2014 6:58 PM KAALtv.com

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- When hail is coming your way, you probably try to save your car.  But imagine what it'd take to protect hundreds of cars those falling chunks of ice.

"We try to get them inside," says Ryan O’Leary from Usem's in Austin, but confides, you can't protect them all.

Of the ones that are, O’Leary says, "Your Corvettes, your Cadillac’s because those are usually your higher end cars.”  Others cars won't be so fortunate.  

"Sometimes we go out and try to put the blankets on them or towels, keep it <hail> off there as much as possible," O’Leary explains.

That little bit of protection can only go so far, especially with the largest stones.

Hail grows by circulating throughout the thunderstorm's updrafts and downdrafts.  Strong updrafts force rain upwards into a layer of freezing air, rain then starts to freeze on ice crystals, forming hail.

Eventually the updraft can no longer support the weight of the stone, and begins to fall.  The hail can make several circulations growing larger and larger with each pass to the storm.

The end result can be, "Baseball size hail. Windows bust out at that size," says O’Leary.

But the damage will start before the glass breaks, explains O’Leary "Glass is really tough this day and age so they stand up to quite a bit so usually you get body dings plenty before the windshield breaking."

The dings start when hail is about the size of a quarter.  Golf ball size hail will leave significant body damage to your car.  Baseball and softball size will start crushing glass.

With a car lot full of dinged up cars, just like you're car, they get fixed, 

"If they (insurance) want to do a paint-less dent repair, they have the option to do that.  If it's beyond that, then they have us write up an estimate, whether we have to replace panels or just repair them," says O’Leary.

Hail is responsible for, on average, one billion dollars worth of crop and property damage.

It can also be deadly, as recently as this weekend in El Paso, Texas, when a homeless woman died after being covered with 3 feet of hail.