There’s nothing quite like a South African thunderstorm. Especially when you hear one rumble across the highveld, or watch a spectacular lightning display over the Berg. But as South Africans know only too well, a summer downpour can quickly turn into a hailstorm – putting an unexpected dent in your day.
But just how much damage can hail do? It’s been known to destroy crops, injure livestock and cause impressive damage to vehicles, buildings and infrastructure, including roofs, windows and gutters. And as your home, vehicle and businesses are the most important assets you will acquire in your lifetime, protecting them from increasingly unpredictable weather patterns is essential.
Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal are particular hail hotspots during the spring and summer months, but hail can strike anywhere, anytime, especially when temperatures and humidity skyrocket, thunder clouds gather and hail, pretty much hails.
It’s crazy to think that hail can be the size of a pea, marble, ping-pong ball or golf ball – and you certainly don’t want to be hit with that.
Protect yourself (and your property) by following a few simple guidelines:
If you manage/own a lodge, hotel or guesthouse
- Keep a tab on weather reports/alerts so you can prepare as best as possible.
- If you’re in a particularly remote area, always make sure that you have a good stock of batteries, torches, snacks and drinking water should the power go down. And make sure that generators and satellite phones are in good working order.
- Chat to your guests when you know that a significant storm is on the way, so they can remain indoors and out of harm’s way.
- Hail can take a while to melt, making outdoor walkways and stairs extremely slippery. Make sure hail and debris is swept away as quickly as possible – and warn your guests to take care.
- Make sure you have ‘slippery when wet’ signage clearly displayed.
- Ensure your vehicles are in a garage or undercover and protect them with a thick blanket if outdoors.
- Outdoor items and furniture should be secured, covered or put inside. This will also send a clear message to guests that these areas are closed.
- During the height of the storm, guests may be tempted to stand near windows to watch the show, staff should direct them away from windows until the storm has passed.
If you’re at home
- Make sure your pets are safely inside with you.
- Keep your curtains or blinds closed to help protect you from flying glass if the windows break.
- If there’s a power outage, turn off electronics and appliances to avoid damage from a power surge when power is restored.
- Use a torch rather than candles (as candles could be a fire hazard).
If you’re on the road
- Put on your hazard lights, reduce your speed and find a safe place to pull over. Ideally under a bridge or in a petrol station or parking garage (think shelter!).
- Avoid finding shelter under trees (because of the risk of falling branches) or in areas like culverts that can suddenly fill with water.
- Make sure you stay in your car and situate yourself (if possible) away from the windows in case they shatter.
- Heavy rain and hail can cause blocked storm drains, and this can result in flash flooding. Be aware and cautious as you continue your journey post storm.
The calm after the storm
- Take photos or make a video of any damage, making sure it is documented.
- To make your insurance claim as seamless as possible, contact your broker and then submit photographs alongside your claim as soon as possible, keeping detailed records of any clean up or repair costs incurred.
Forewarned is forearmed
Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing? And while you can’t predict everything, there’s no doubt that many parts of the country are now firmly in thunderstorm season. It’s a good idea to:
- Embrace your inner landscaper and manage any loose or overhanging branches from trees.
- Clear your gutters, as hail melts slowly and this can cause a leak in your roof.
- Chat to your broker about your current insurance policy and make sure you have the right cover in place.