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What You Need to Know About Hail in Colorado

The W’s of Hail (What, Where, When)

7 min
Numerous hailstones on green grass after a hailstorm being measured by a wooden ruler

A hailstorm is typically a weather event you cannot miss. Hail may be reported on your local news and is not isolated to a single house or block.

Hail may damage a roof, making an indentation or crack that allows water to penetrate inside your property. If you suspect to have hail damage, you will likely need to file an insurance claim.

Potential signs of hail damage:

  • Damage to other, often more visible items on your home or property, such as gutters and downspouts, windows, and siding
  • Dents to a vehicle or broken glass
  • Indentations on the asphalt shingles where granules are missing and small divots remain
  • Many asphalt roof shingle granules at the end of your downspout
Related: Ultimate Guide to Creating and Understanding an Insurance Estimate

What is Hail?

Hail is a type of precipitation or water droplets in the atmosphere. Hail forms when water droplets freeze together in the cold upper regions of severe thunderstorm clouds. This frozen water droplet begins to fall from a cloud during a severe weather storm but is then lifted back into the cloud by a strong updraft of wind. When the hailstone lifts, it hits more liquid water droplets, which then freeze to the hailstone, adding another layer to it. A hailstone eventually falls to the ground once it’s too heavy to remain in the cloud or when the updraft stops or slows down.

These chunks of ice are called hailstones and are typically transparent (clear) or translucent (cloudy).

Hailstones differ from frozen rain – frozen raindrops fall to the ground as water and freeze as they approach the earth. By contrast, hail falls to the ground, not as water, but as a solid.

Larger hailstones can cause extensive property damage to homes and buildings, vehicles, and even crops. To no surprise, scientists have tried ways to prevent hail. In the 18th century, Europeans fired cannons into clouds. In the 20th century, scientists in the United States and Russia tried cloud seeding, the process of adding chemical particles into clouds from rockets or aircraft to control rain and hail. Sadly, there is no evidence that any technique has been effective.

Where Does Hail Occur?

Some parts of the world are more susceptible to hailstorms than others, including India and China, and parts of the midwestern United States. In the United States and Canada, meteorologists refer to the Great Plains region as “Hail Alley.” “Hail alley” is a region from southeast Wyoming, northeast Colorado, western Nebraska, and Kansas that produces not necessarily the largest hail, but the most frequent hail in the United States. This region is uniquely susceptible to hail due to its location near the Rocky Mountains.

In 2010, South Dakota recorded the largest hailstone in the United States, measuring 8 inches in diameter, roughly the size of a volleyball. The world record for hailstone by weight was recorded in Bangladesh, India, in 1986 with a 2.25-pound monster.

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When is Hail Season in Colorado?

Colorado is one of the most hail-prone states in the United States. The Front Range Colorado hail season extends from April 15 to September 15, with the most frequent and most destructive hailstorms in June. Hailstorms occur many times in eastern Colorado each summer, with hailstones frequently measuring 1 to 2 inches in diameter and falling at a rate of 80 miles per hour. Think of these large hailstones (or ice balls) ranging in size from a ping pong ball to a golf ball, and rarely, even a grapefruit.

Hail size chart comparing various items from peas and marbles to limes and tennis balls for reference to hail size on a blue background

Easy reference hail size chart National Weather Service hail size comparison chart

On August 13, 2019, the largest hailstone recorded in Colorado was found near Bethune, measuring 4.83 inches in diameter, roughly the size of a softball, and weighed more than a half-pound. The previous record in Colorado was 4.5 inches in diameter. Hailstones that heavy can reach speeds of more than 100 miles per hour, which can be extremely damaging to personal property and dangerous to anyone caught out in a storm.

Anyone in the Denver metro area will remember our most recent and severe storm on May 8, 2017. This severe storm dropped large hailstones across many parts of the Denver metro area. While not the size of a grapefruit, this hail event was catastrophic and the costliest to our Denver community due to the broad swath of geography that was impacted.

In preparation for our 5-month hail season, the following are some useful statistics.

  • Hail occurs more frequently in the eastern plains of the Rockies than anywhere else in North America
  • Hail is variable and can occur in any location throughout the country from year to year; essentially more than any other climatic event such as hurricane or tornado
  • Destructive hail occurs most frequently on the western Great Plains
  • Thunderstorms with strong winds and accompanying hail significantly increase the damage potential
  • “Hail alley” is a region from southeast Wyoming, northeast Colorado, western Nebraska and Kansas that produces not necessarily the largest hail, but the most frequent hail in the United States. This region is uniquely susceptible to hail due to its location near the Rocky Mountains.
  • Colorado hailstorms occur most frequently in June and are most likely to be destructive in mid-June; in parts of southeastern Colorado, including Pueblo, August is the worst hail month
  • Large hailstones of 1 to 2 inches in diameter (similar to a golf ball) may fall up to 80 miles per hour and occur many times in eastern Colorado each summer
  • Stones as large as 4.5 inches in diameter have been observed in northeastern Colorado and can cause incredible damage; a hailstone of this size will not only cause damage to a roof but also can penetrate a roof
  • On August 13, 2019, the largest hailstone recorded in Colorado was found near Bethune, measuring 4.83 inches in diameter, which is roughly the size of a softball, and weighed more than a half-pound
  • There has been one death but numerous injuries in Colorado as a result of hail
  • Hail also occurs very frequently in the high Colorado mountains during summer, but these hailstones tend to be small and soft and rarely do damage
  • Hail falls faster and hits harder in Colorado compared to lower elevations. For example, a one-inch hailstone that hits the ground at 50 mph at sea level will hit at 54 mph in Denver, potentially leading to more significant damage in our Mile High City.
  • According to an April 2020 NICB Hail Report, Colorado had the second-highest number of hail claims in the US from 2017-2019 (380,066), second only to Texas. Texas was the top state in hail loss claims from 2017 through 2019, with 637,977 hail claims except for 2018, where Colorado had the highest claims. Over the three years covered by this report, May had the highest monthly average for hail loss claims with 621,945. June was next with 586,749. March (368,885); April (346,214) and July (277,363) round out the top five.

Please pay attention to local weather forecasts when severe weather and hail are stated as possible. Hailstones range in size and speed and can cause extensive property damage to your home, vehicles, and even you. Please be safe and take immediate shelter as necessary.

What should I do after a hailstorm?

Please note the following tips if you believe your roof gets damaged by hail.

  • Record the date of the hailstorm
  • Contact a reputable local roofing contractor to complete a roof inspection before you file a claim with your insurance company
  • Be wary of any roofing company or individual who knocks on your door immediately following a hailstorm. While some individuals may be reputable, we strongly recommend contacting a reputable local roofing company – not a storm-chaser. And never hand over any money on the spot.
  • If your roofing contractor discovers hail damage, it is vital to immediately file a claim with your insurance company. Some insurance companies have strict time limits when you can file a claim.
  • Your insurance company will perform its independent inspection. We recommend you have your selected roofing contractor available when the insurance adjuster comes to assess the roof. It is essential to follow your insurance company’s guidelines regarding the claim.
  • Do not attempt to fix or repair your roof on your own.

Why Choose Metro City Roofing?

Metro City Roofing is a Colorado roofing company headquartered in Denver, CO, with offices in Denver and Colorado Springs. We specialize in hassle-free professional roofing and will treat your home like our own.

We deliver the best professional roofing services across the entire Front Range from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. We are proud of the excellent reputation we've earned, with outstanding customer satisfaction, one roof, and one customer at a time.

Jonathan Abramson

Jonathan Abramson

Colorado Roofing Expert, Founder of Metro City Roofing

Jonathan loves the roofing industry as his company helps individual customers to navigate the insurance claim process and get them the new roof they need after a hailstorm. He has earned numerous roofing certifications and licenses, including the distinguished All Lines Adjuster License.

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