Hail Demo: All in the Name of Science

When the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) conducts the world’s first indoor hailstorm Wednesday morning at its Research Center in South Carolina, it will be the end of one chapter and the beginning of a multi-year effort to study the damaging effects of hail falls on properties – and to develop solutions to reduce the risks. The demonstration will test the performance of several different types of construction materials. Watch the video.

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Key construction features of the home used in the hailstorm demonstration, to illustrate different levels of performance in a hailstorm, include:

  • Roofing – one plane of the roof is covered with standard, non-impact resistant 3-tab asphalt shingles; another plane is covered with impact-resistant architectural asphalt shingles. The other two planes of the roof is covered with standing seam metal roofing. In one case, the metal roofing is installed directly over the roof deck; in the other case, the metal roofing is installed over a layer of asphalt shingles – a common real world occurrence and one which may enable more hail damage.

  • Exterior walls – two sides are covered in fiber-cement siding; the other two feature standard vinyl siding.

  • Windows – both vinyl and aluminum windows are installed.

  • Gutters – both aluminum gutters and downspouts are installed.

IBHS Hail Field Work

To re-create Mother Nature in a controlled laboratory setting requires a commitment to excellence in science. This commitment has taken IBHS researchers thousands of miles; driving by car into nine hailstorms in six states in seven days during 2012. During this trip they were able to quickly collect data sets to document hailstones in their natural environment. One goal of this effort was the establishment of a standard to measure the hardness of hailstones. This type of measurement is one critical step toward ensuring the 10,000 hailstones researchers have since produced and will use at during Wednesday’s demonstration at the IBHS Research Center will mimic nature as closely as possible. No hardness standard existed prior to this work. To create one, researchers and technicians developed a custom compressive force device that measures the force needed to fracture a hailstone, which translates into the hardness measurement. By learning all they can about the properties of hailstones, IBHS researchers led by Dr. Tanya Brown and Dr. Ian Giammanco can properly simulate one of Mother Nature’s costliest natural hazards. A single hailstorm can cause $1 billion in property damage.

“The hail problem is a long-term one,” says Dr. Brown, “and one of the things we have wanted to do is evaluate the test standards that are now used for products, like roofing. Products that are rated to a certain test standard may not always perform the way they’re rated. In order to really understand what these standards mean, we have to make the testing more realistic.”

Up on the Roof

IBHS hail investigators also climbed onto more than 100 rooftops to examine the real-world damage patterns left behind by a catastrophic hailstorm in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in 2011. The effort was led by the Roofing Industry Committee on Weather Issues (RICOW), of which IBHS is a founding member. Despite temperatures exceeding 100 degrees, IBHS staff spent hours on top of commercial and residential structures to inspect damage and gauge performance of impact-resistance roofing materials and non-impact resistant products. Read the report about the RICOWI findings. To delve deeper into roofing performance, IBHS partnered with Xactware to analyze more than 61,000 insurance police in force in nearly 20 ZIP Codes around the Dallas Metroplex to get a better understanding of the scope, frequency and severity of the hail damage. The Xactware-IBHS report will be released later this year.

Learn more about the IBHS hail demo. Tune into the Today Show on NBC between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. EST Wednesday, February 20, 2013 to see live reports from the hail demo at the IBHS Research Center. 

All in the Name of Science


A storm is shown brewing near Cairo, Nebraska during IBHS hail field studies.


A hailstone collected in Kingfisher, OK measures at nearly 3 inches.


Chuck Miccolis, IBHS commercial lines engineer, measures hail damage on a roof in Dallas, TX.


Dr. Tanya Brown, IBHS research engineer, measures hail in Eads, Colorado.

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Hank Pogorzelski. IBHS applied statistician, takes photos of hail during field studies.


Dr. Ian Giammanco, IBHS research scientist, works on his computer during IBHS field studies.


2 Responses to Hail Demo: All in the Name of Science

  1. Thank you, thank you for all your business has done to improve the safety of homes. Also, somewhere along the way please remind folks of the danger from trees being planted too close to homes. People just do not trim, or take into effect how this can damage a roof.
    PS (Allison Dean Love is our daughter, & she is with you today to see the media folks and assist them). 2/20/13 Amelia Dean

  2. It is very nice to get a chance to go through your informative piece of writing. A lot of vague aspects have been made clear with your thoughts. Try out this as well http://www.disastersafety.org.

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