Ways to Protect a Business in Hail Alley


For hail to make its way to the ground, a thunderstorm with powerful upward winds must propel raindrops higher into the atmosphere. Once the raindrops get cold enough, they freeze and become ice pellets. In a series of collisions with clouds and other water droplets, the pellets build layers and grow until they are too heavy for the winds to keep lifting them, and they fall to the ground, forming hail.

Hailstorms can happen anywhere, but some areas are more prone than others. In most cases, hail is tiny ice balls that occasionally happen during thunderstorms. However, for people living and working in Hail Alley, this weather phenomenon can be dangerous and destructive. In 2020, property insurance claims totaled almost $14.2 billion.

For people working in Hail Alley, it is crucial to protect their businesses from this destructive weather. Without any defenses, building structures and property run a severe risk of experiencing unnecessary damage and expenses. Learn more about some helpful ways to combat the negative impacts of hail and keep operations running smoothly.

Read the full article or jump to a specific section: 

What Is Hail Alley?

Hail Alley, also called Hailstorm Alley, is a region in North America that experiences a disproportionate amount of pelting ice storms every year. 

While most areas in America are too warm for hail to make its way to the ground before melting, Hail Alley's conditions keep ice solid and intact. Much of the region is at a high elevation, thanks to natural features like Colorado's High Plains and the Rocky Mountains. 

Falling hail comes in a wide array of sizes ranging from a pea to a baseball. Some of the most severe storms in Hail Alley have dropped hail that was nearly as big as a soccer ball. People living and working in this area expect to experience multiple hailstorms every year. 

Where Is Hail Alley?

Hail Alley is in America's central region and extends to the Canadian border, including the following states:

  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Wyoming
  • Colorado
  • Kansas
  • Nebraska
  • Oklahoma 
  • Texas

This area can also extend to the eastern part of New Mexico and other surrounding states. Hail is especially typical in the region where Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming meet. This area is the heart of Hail Alley and averages seven to nine days with hail every year. 

Thanks to global climate change, hailstorms are becoming more severe and more frequent every year. In Hail Alley, ice can cover the ground in only minutes without much warning. 

When Are Hailstorms Most Common?

Hailstorms happen most frequently in the summertime. The updraft associated with thunderstorms propels water droplets high enough into the atmosphere to freeze and become hail. Late spring and the summer months have the highest chance of unstable air that creates thunderstorms. Because of this, most hailstorms occur between May and August. 

There are critical differences between hail and freezing rain or sleet. Freezing rain occurs when cold air causes raindrops to freeze as they touch the cold ground. Sleet occurs when cold air refreezes partially melted snowflakes, turning them into ice pellets. Though sleet and hail are both forms of frozen precipitation, they form in unique ways and fall at different times of year. 

What Type of Damage Does Hail Do?

Like other severe weather such as hurricanes or tornados, hailstorms can be dangerous. Here are the hazards that can come with hail.

  • People and animals: Hailstone strikes can injure humans and animals. The largest hailstone on record was over 6 inches in diameter and weighed more than a pound. Hailstones of this size can travel more than 100 miles per hour. Imagine the harm a massive, fast-moving hailstone could cause if it struck someone in the head.
  • Airplanes: Ice and hail can be hazardous for aircraft. Planes can suffer damage, and hail accumulation can make runways slippery and dangerous. Hail can also cause flight delays and unexpected turbulence. 
  • Travel: Hail can interfere with travel for drivers and pedestrians by making roadways and sidewalks unsafe. Hail also makes it challenging for people to ride bicycles or use their wheelchairs. 
  • Vehicles: Cars often endure the most damage from hail. Ice can cause cosmetic and structural damage that reduces the vehicle's value and can be costly to fix.
  • Crops: Hail can cause extensive damage to crops, adversely affecting farmers. Hail can destroy months of agricultural work in only minutes, pelting plants and breaking off branches. Storms with powerful winds can cause even more damage.

  • Properties: Hailstorms can be destructive, damaging buildings and bursting through glass windows. Hail damage accounts for nearly 70% of insured property losses from severe weather every year. Ice can destroy everything from roofs to outdoor decor.

Potential Expenses of Hail Damage 

The destruction caused by a hailstorm can also be expensive. The following are some common types of hail damage for homes and businesses:

  • Cracked or shattered windshields
  • Dented cars
  • Broken gutters
  • Dinged siding
  • Cracked roofs
  • Leaks
  • Damaged windowsills 
  • Dented or broken outdoor decor 
  • Cracked or shattered skylights

On average, Americans experience more than $10 billion worth of damages every year because of hail. The costs of repairing and replacing damaged property can rack up quickly, especially after a severe storm. Some of the most expensive storms in recent history have cost over $1 billion in damages.  

Aside from climate change, one reason hailstorms have been so costly in recent years is that more people are moving out of cities to suburbs and rural areas. With a larger population in Hail Alley, there are additional cars and buildings for hail to damage.

The Importance of Protecting a Business From Hail

People living in Hail Alley must take the initiative and protect themselves from weather damage — especially companies such as car dealerships that have most of their inventory outside. But, before taking care of a property, it's essential to ensure people are safe first. 

A hailstorm can develop in minutes, giving little forewarning and time to prepare for the people below. With such short notice, locals in Hail Alley need to take preventive measures and familiarize themselves with the best practices before a hailstorm hits. 

Business owners must take the following factors into account when creating a protection plan for cases of severe weather.

  • Employee and customer safety: Protecting people should always take priority over saving property. Management should create a detailed action plan for severe weather or other unforeseen incidents. Share this plan with the team so they know what to expect. Like other disaster response plans, having an organized system will make things less hectic and keep people present and safe in the face of inclement weather. Employees should know how to get to the safest location in the building. 
  • Minimizing property damage: Preparation is one of the best ways to protect a business. Identify what buildings or equipment could use additional safety measures like storm shutters or a protective overhead structure. Investing in these can reduce damage and save lots of money on repairs while giving owners peace of mind. 
  • Secure record-keeping: As soon as it is safe, business owners should take photos of any damage to their property after a hailstorm to allow for better, more complete evidence when meeting with an insurance agent. The only way to maximize insurance coverage is to provide detailed documentation, and a photo is worth a thousand words. 
  • Backup data: Strong winds often accompany hail, knocking down power lines and causing various electrical issues. It is best to scan paper documents and upload them to an external drive in case of potential water damage. For these reasons, having computer data backed up can save operations tons of time and money.
  • Remote operation: For safety reasons, employees who usually report to work in person may need to do their jobs from home during or after a hailstorm. Whether the ice complicates travel or damage to a facility has made it unworkable, there should be a plan for remote operation. Have a communications contingency plan to eliminate any confusion about what is going on.  

Without taking the necessary precautions, business owners risk being unprotected and unprepared for severe hail. These factors are vital for the company's operations and employee safety. 

Ways to Protect a Business From Hailstorms

For businesses in areas with a high risk of hail and severe storms, taking the proper steps to stay safe and secure can save a great deal of money. Owners must understand how to protect a business in Hailstorm Alley. The following are ways to defend against hail and the damage that can accompany it.

1. Focus on Safety First

Keeping employees safe should always take priority during a hailstorm. Leaders should instruct their teams to take shelter and avoid going near any windows. They should find the safest part of the building on the lowest floor. If the building has a basement, workers can gather there. If not, having everyone shelter in windowless areas like stairwells or bathrooms can work too. 

Business leaders must prepare emergency plans to keep their employees as safe as possible in the event of a severe storm. Owners and managers should communicate this plan with their teams to ensure everyone is on the same page and knows what to expect. Having practice drills can also help keep people safe when weather conditions become dangerous. 

2. Regularly Inspect the Roof

One way to keep a business more secure during a storm is having a professional regularly inspect the roof. These expert inspections can save companies a considerable amount of time and damage. 

Locating worn materials and weak spots is a crucial step in avoiding greater, costly destruction. Replace and repair these areas of the roof so they can better withstand heavy hail. Remove any debris or leaves from the rooftop and gutters. 

By not addressing rooftop damage, business owners might experience leaks or blocked drains that can cause a cascade of other expensive issues. Plus, it is safer for employees to take shelter in a building with a secure roof. 

3. Consider Impact-Resistant Windows

Businesses in locations with the threat of heavy hail should have impact-resistant windows to prevent shattering during storms. Manufacturers treat these types of windows to withstand impacts and reduce the chances of breakage, even when objects make contact with them. 

Impact-resistant windows can still break, but they are less likely to shatter. A large chunk of hail that could destroy a regular window might leave only a crack on treated options. People inside the building can stay safer, since there is less chance for glass or debris to come flying in from the outside.

Besides providing additional safety from objects shattering the glass, having impact-resistant windows can provide security during high-speed winds. 

4. Secure Equipment and Valuables

For businesses in areas where hailstorms are common, leaders should keep a close eye on their local weather forecasts. Though hail can be unpredictable, anticipating severe weather might give teams enough time to secure their equipment and valuables, especially outdoor items.

Steps to take might include moving cars to secure locations in sheltered areas or removing high-value items from indoor spaces near windows. If the business has outdoor inventory or equipment, employees should take care of these items to prevent hail or wind damage. Securing loose objects can also help keep the storm from knocking items down or carrying them away.

5. Get Adequate Hail Insurance Coverage 

A severe storm can devastate building structures and property, leaving the owners with hundreds or thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses. That's why businesses in Hail Alley must have insurance policies that cover hail damage. 

Typically, commercial property insurance covers hail damage claims. These policies can help with expenses. Whether the business needs to repair and replace items, property insurance often extends to equipment and building structures. 

In addition, some owners opt for a business owner's policy that covers small businesses. This option groups commercial property and general liability insurance policies and is typically more affordable. 

It can be beneficial for owners to review their policy closely with an insurance agent, especially when a business is in a high-risk zone. 

6. Invest in Hail Protection Structures 

One of the best ways to protect a business from the potential dangers of a hailstorm is by investing in protection structures that provide shelter for parking lots or car dealerships. 

By installing these structures, business owners and managers do not have to fret when a hailstorm comes through the area. Instead, they can feel comfortable knowing their inventory is safe and sheltered. Even businesses that don't sell anything from their parking lot can benefit from vehicle protection structures. Covered parking spaces can provide a shield for customers' and employees' cars.

Protect Businesses With VPS Hail Protection Structures 

For more than 25 years, Vehicle Protection Structures has been a leader in automotive hail protection and covered parking. In response to the need for reliable and durable shelters for car lots, VPS provides hail and asset protection products for areas prone to pelting ice that can damage property and pose a threat to people. We have pioneered fabric-based hail and UV protection to protect valuable inventory and parking for many businesses, including leading car manufacturers and dealers.

VPS installations account for 95% of all automatic hail protection and fabric-based covered parking installations throughout North America. Our expert team has the experience and relationships to lead projects at every level, including:

  • Innovative design
  • Engineering
  • Manufacturing
  • Project management
  • Constructions
  • Post-project support

Custom Solutions to Fit a Business' Unique Needs 

We pride ourselves on our ability to tackle any project, no matter its exact specifications or property challenges. VPS offers custom options that accommodate any special requirements, including:

  • Property size
  • Land usage 
  • Operational needs 

We can adapt and overcome issues with terrain or setup. Our team works hard to deliver turnkey structures that exceed the bounds of traditional solutions. We are excited to build protective structures that enhance any application. Our product options include the following.

  • Mass coverage: VPS has the manufacturing capabilities to create options that cover large-scale properties.
  • Covered walkways: Our covered walkways provide more safety and protection for employees and visitors alike.
  • Cantilevers: We can build cantilevers that cover and protect vehicles while providing structural support that doesn't complicate driving patterns.

Benefits of Hail Protection Structures From VPS 

When living in Hail Alley, a sudden storm can cause devasting damage, and protection against hail is a necessity. Installing a protection structure can yield many benefits for a business, including the following.

  • Protected inventory: Our structures offer coverage over vehicle fleets that protect them from the elements, including hail and UV/sun that can be very damaging to vehicles.
  • Less operational disruptions: With a protective structure, the weather is less likely to impact businesses. Operations can continue running smoothly without interruption, even during some of the worst weather. 
  • Fewer liability risks: Protect visitors' and employees' vehicles and enjoy peace of mind with fewer liability risks. Our structures can defend against broken windows and damaged auto bodies.

Contact VPS to Get a Project Started Today

Hail structures from VPS can protect parking lots and car dealership inventory from the elements. When a destructive hailstorm comes through town, it can leave businesses devastated by more than damage. Extreme weather events can also lead to operational disruptions that cost additional time and money.

Protecting assets should be a priority. In addition to hail structures, VPS also offers options for heat protection and defending against ultraviolet rays. With more than two decades of experience, VPS has the expertise and resources for innovative structures that meet any business' needs.

Ready to learn more? Contact VPS to get a project started!