Hail damage during a chase: it's not controversial

Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
2,400
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St. Louis
stormhighway.com
I became aware of a chaser's recent grilling on social media for breaking a windshield in baseball-sized hail, after making a report of it, no less.

I have to say, what's up with that? Hail damage is one of the most uncontroversial storm chasing phenomenons ever. Nearly every long-time chaser has had at least one window loss, and dents are so common they are part of the quintessential chase vehicle that has seen any real action. When you get in the vicinity of supercells on a regular basis (barring keeping yourself so far away that you're always in the nosebleed seats), you are going to have a hail risk. That can come from the storm you're on, new storms going up nearby, or encountering limited road options. Storms can lob rogue baseballs far to the east of the meso into what normally is a precip-free viewing position.

Few chasers intentionally drive into baseballs or softballs. Windows are expensive to replace, and a break can end your chase and sideline you for the next day.

My point is, hail happens. It's part of the game. It's out of line to lambast any chaser for getting a spider crack in their windshield, something that nearly everyone who's done this for more than a decade has had happen. I get a few new dents every season, and now use hail guards to limit the glass breakage risk. This has increased my safety factor: I now never have to worry about an escape route blocked by potential large hail.

I'm not saying have a completely cavalier attitude toward large hail. A 100mph sideways softball barrage can be dangerous to vehicle occupants, and broken glass can be a hazard during repeated windshield hits. But those extreme events are rare. Most large hail poses a vehicle damage risk, and not much else. Auto glass is expensive, and anyone who doesn't prepare for damage (either financially or with hail guards) will find this out soon enough. As long as you're not claiming hail damage on your insurance, a broken window hurts no one.

I'm all for a pro-safety attitude, but in my opinion, this one crosses the line into unreasonable criticism.
 
Last edited:
Jan 10, 2014
100
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Sheridan, WY
www.kevin-palmer.com
I was on that same storm. After seeing the baseball hail report I knew I wanted to stay well south of the core. But new cells popped up behind me as the line filled in. With no phone signal at the time it was impossible to know how big the hail would be and there was nowhere to go anyway. It was the first time I’ve felt like a hail encounter was unavoidable. Thankfully the gust front and hail didn’t arrive simultaneously. I imagine the 1.5” hailstones would have caused a lot more damage than just a few dents if it was wind-driven.


Sent from my iPhone using Stormtrack
 
The sad fact is that 'social' media is, invariably, a place for trolls to get their kicks by calling out people on just about anything. Almost any subject seems to attract it too! There are 2 options: Don't worry about it; don't go on social media. Most of us enjoy reading others' reports, etc, so option 2 seems unlikely to curry much favour, so go with 1! Of course, healthy debate is fine, but as this case shows, sometimes it's not worth worrying about.
 
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Dave C

EF2
Jun 5, 2013
103
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Denver
www.davidcrowlphotography.com
"Few chasers intentionally drive into baseballs or softballs."

Have to disagree- seen several proud posts about 'destroyed another windshield', etc. There is a large component of immaturity in many chasers; why I consider myself an ocassional storm photographer and not really a chaser- I would never fit in with the main stream BS.

Anyway, people are people and I just ignore, nor do I really care to judge. Sculptures in the sky and seeing new places? Yes, that's for me. Bragging, taking risks, keeping score, immaturity in general? Well, I don't understand most of that, maybe just youthful decision making, but to each their own- I don't run the world.
 

Mark Blue

Staff member
Supporter
Feb 19, 2007
2,773
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Colorado
I often wonder about the insurance claim side of this activity. I always felt if I ask my carrier to replace three or more windshields per year AND I have a huge online presence where I brag about what I’m doing it’s a fast way to get a cancellation letter. These folks will eventually learn it’s an expensive hobby when you test the limits on a frequent basis.
 
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Mark Blue

Staff member
Supporter
Feb 19, 2007
2,773
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21
Colorado
I too have never made a hail claim, although I have a cracked up windshield that needs replaced now. Since my deductible is $500 and it costs only a hair more to pay cash for the whole job that’s what I’m going to do. If certain chasers want to submit multiple insurance claims for hail damage more power to them, but I can almost guarantee they won’t be with the same insurance company like I have since 1984. Maybe they just don’t care.
 
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Jan 16, 2009
547
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Kansas City
I use four windows while chasing with Grlvl2 and one is always hail. I usually drive in if it is under tennis balls and if to large I wait for it to pass if tornadoes are not happening. That's just how I do it but I always have to replace a windshield regardless at the end of the year.

The ringing sound in your ears from large hail is not that much fun btw.
 
I too have never made a hail claim, although I have a cracked up windshield that needs replaced now. Since my deductible is $500 and it costs only a hair more to pay cash for the whole job that’s what I’m going to do. If certain chasers want to submit multiple insurance claims for hail damage more power to them, but I can almost guarantee they won’t be with the same insurance company like I have since 1984. Maybe they just don’t care.
My wife is an attorney who occasionally works with insurance companies. I can tell you that automotive insurance companies and rental car agencies are very aware of "storm chasing" given the growing number of claims, accidents (including fatal accidents), etc. I won't name names, but I know of two incidents where chasers were denied the "full loss damage waiver policy" coverage because it was determined they "purposely" used a vehicle in a negligent manner. I've been asked at least three times to testify in depositions as an expert regarding negligent damage, including one after Hurricane Irma, but I refused / excused all three because I either knew the individuals and / or did not want to be involved in claims against chasers.
 
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Jun 1, 2008
467
362
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Chattanooga, TN
www.linkedin.com
Hail happens. Ignore social media judges and trolls.

Depending on chase style, one can manage their hail risk. Hanging back and/or to the storm's right reduces hail risk. Closer and/or viewing from different angles can increase risk. It is perfectly acceptable to take hail, esp if one has glass protection. Also cool to hang back if one would rather not replace a shield.

I'm not condoning core punching here. Perfectly acceptable hail includes front flank activity or hail wrapping around the back if one is going for the lighter photo. Most good chasers have a valid reason for their position. Hail is part of the hobby.
 
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Aug 22, 2015
134
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Hastings, Nebraska
I have had many run ins with hail. Most of them purely due to lack of roads, weird storm movement, etc. This year was the first time I drove myself into an HP mess and took on golf balls so that I could catch a glimpse of a rain wrapped tornado. Dumb trolls don't know anything about us and their mommy's computer screen sure makes them pretty tough and smart.