Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Global Hail

The United States experiences a large number of hail events, but hail can occur anywhere in the world – especially in areas near mountainous terrain.  Western China and northern India experience hail quite frequently, as do areas near the Alps in Europe, the Andes in South America and in mountainous east Africa. New South Wales in Australia is also known for its catastrophic hail events. 
Amid the current Texas “hail crisis” – an analysis and evaluation of how other parts of the world address and resolve hail-damage claims may provide some valuable insight to those currently in the trenches of hail claims and litigation. 
Below is a brief summary of the countries experiencing the most hail and the types of hail events these countries experience.  Later in this series, we will provide an analysis of how each of these countries addresses and resolves hail damage claims.
But first – the Hail of Fame
The following are the top places in the world where hail occurs:
1.      Kenya
2.      United States (The Great Plains)
3.      Australia
4.      Southern China
5.      India
When you think of the places in the world experiencing hail events, Kenya probably doesn’t come to mind.  However, Kericho, Kenya holds the world record of 132 days of hail in one year and annually experiences approximately 50 days of hail. Despite the frequency, Kenyan hail is typically small.  Kericho is close to the equator and at an elevation of 7,200 feet, which contributes to it being a hot spot for hail. Kenya's localized hail storms damage tea crops, and in many cases, are one of the largest single natural variables affecting tea production.
United States
Although Bangladesh holds the record for the heaviest recorded hailstone, the United States claims a close second. The largest officially recognized hailstone on record to have been ‘captured’ in the U.S. fell near Vivian, South Dakota on July 23rd, 2010. It measured 8.0” in diameter, 18 ½” in circumference, and weighed in at 1.9375 pounds.
In the United States, hail storms most frequently occur in what has been referred to as “Hail Alley” - more specifically the Great Plains areas of Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma.  Hail in this area of the country is most likely to fall late in the afternoon during the months of May and June and is often responsible for extensive crop loss, property damage and livestock deaths.
According to NOAA’s Severe Storms database, there were over 5,000 major hail storms in 2015; with over 1,300 occurring during the month of June. Since 2010, nearly 40 percent of all insured losses resulted from claims related to wind and hail damage, averaging $15 billion annually and growing. In the state of Texas alone, insured losses from two hailstorms that occurred in March 2016 are currently expected to exceed $1.5 billion.
Just this past June 2016, a tornado and extreme hailstorm in China’s eastern Jiangsu Province, just north of Shanghai, destroyed buildings and killed 51 people. A month later, a South China Airlines Airbus A320 made a miraculous landing after it sustained extensive hail damage, forcing the pilots to land the plane blind.
In China's Henan province, twenty-two (some say twenty-five) were killed by a hailstorm in 2002, and nine more were killed in a hailstorm in 2003 in the Dingxi Prefecture. As recently as 2009, fourteen were killed by hail in the Anhui province and buildings collapsed.
Perhaps the single costliest hailstorm in world history struck the Sydney, Australia area on April 14, 1999. Hailstones up to 3½” in diameter fell for almost 60 minutes damaging 20,000 structures and 40,000 vehicles. The total sum of insured losses reached A$1.7bn, and the esti­mated direct economic losses were over A$2.3bn.
In November 2014, a hail­ storm battered the Brisbane area, producing hailstones even larger than those in 1999.  This hailstorm occurred during rush hour, damaging more than 60,000 cars, 22,000 commercial and residential buildings and injuring 30 people. The number of insur­ance claims exceeded 100,000, with a total insured loss of A$1.35bn, and a direct economic loss estimated at A$1.8bn.
The Deccan Plateau of northern India is home to some of the most deadly hailstorms, and perhaps the largest hailstones, in the world. In fact, the heaviest authenticated hailstone ever measured was one of 2.25 pounds that fell in the Gopalganj district of Bangladesh (which was once part of India) on April 14, 1986. The stones were not officially recorded and measured, although anecdotal reports claimed the stones were the size of “pumpkins”.  
In 1888, a hailstorm in Moradabad, India killed more than 250 people. More recently, a 2013 hail storm killed at least 9 people in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India, also destroying houses, crops, and livestock. Hail events, so devastating to crops in this area of the world, have prompted novel methods to minimize the catastrophic impact in the agriculture industry.
Posted by Jennifer Gibbs