A manufactured home destroyed after the Eastern Iowa Derecho in July of 2011.
Image Courtesy of Kip Ladage
A large swath of trees downed after a straight-line wind storm.
Image Courtesy of the NWS Duluth, MN and the Burnett County Sheriff's Department
A hail damaged house after a wind-driven hailstorm. Note the boarded-up broken windows and stripped siding.
A runner's body covered in welts and bruises after being caught outside in a hailstorm near Grinnell, IA.
Image Courtesy of Pat Crawford and KCCI. Used with Permission.

Back to Selection Page

Severe Weather: Hail and Straight Line Wind Safety

Before it Strikes . . .  
Introduction
Planning Ahead
Understanding the Forecast
Receiving the Warning

Staying Safe . . .  
Tornadoes
Lightning
Hail and Straight Line Winds

 


While hail and straight-line winds generally do not garner the same attention or respect as tornadoes, they can be just as deadly! Hail can exceed the size of softballs and fall at speeds of over 100 mph, seriously injuring or killing anyone in its path. Straight-line winds can topple trees onto cars, houses, and power lines. Many deaths from straight-line winds are the result of trees falling onto the person, whether they are outside, in their house, or driving in their car. Strong straight-line wind events can even destroy buildings, especially mobile homes and manufactured homes.

Below are some tips on staying safe when hail and straight-line winds strike.


Hail

Above all else, remember to get as much as possible between you and the falling hail.

        If you are. . .

    Hail Damaged House
  • Inside a building -
    • Stay away from windows and do not stand out on your porch. Wind-blown hail can shatter windows.
    • Do not venture outside to look at the hail. Even after the hail has ended, other dangers such as lightning and strong winds may still be a threat.
  • Driving -
    • Pull over into a parking lot or gas station.
      • If you are caught on a major road such as the Interstate, pull over to the side of the road and turn on your emergency flashers.
      • DO NOT stop in the middle of the lane under an overpass. This could lead to an accident.
      • Driving through the hail will only increase the amount of damage done to your vehicle.
    • Use blankets or coats to cover yourself in case the windshield shatters and hail enters the vehicle.
    • If you are in a truck, van or SUV, moving to the middle of the vehicle to get away from the front windshield is encouraged. Cars typically have sloping front and rear windshields that are equally susceptible to breakage.
    • Stay away from sun/moon roofs as these could shatter and allow hail to fall into the vehicle.
  • Outside -
      After a Hail Storm
    • Get inside a building or car! (building is preferred)
    • If there is no building or car to take shelter in, use whatever is at your disposal to shield yourself from the falling hail.
      • If nothing else, protect your head since the most serious and lethal hail injuries result from being struck in the head.
      • Even everyday items lying around, such as a bike helmet or loose pieces of sheet metal or plywood, can be used to shield yourself.
      • It should be noted that tents or other canvas shelters/awnings provide little protection since hail can shred these with ease.
      • Even small hail driven by the wind can cause severe injuries (see photo on the right).

Straight-Line Winds

Straight-line wind safety is similar to tornado safety.

        If you are. . .

  • Inside of a well-built home or building -
    • Move to the lowest floor and stay away from windows.
    • Taking shelter in a basement is strongly encouraged, especially if you are surrounded by trees that could fall onto the building or house.
  • Manufactured House Destroyed
  • In a mobile home or manufactured home -
    • Move to a stronger building or storm cellar if one is nearby
    • Mobile and manufactured homes can usually withstand low-end straight-line wind storms, but as winds reach or exceed 70 mph, the risk of these homes being blown apart or struck by falling trees increases greatly.
  • Driving -
    • Keep both hands on the wheel and slow down.
    • Pull over to the shoulder and stop, making sure you are away from trees or other tall objects that could fall onto your vehicle. DO NOT stop in the middle of a lane under an overpass. This could lead to an accident.
    • Take extra care in a high-profile vehicle such as a truck, van, SUV, or when towing a trailer
      • These are more prone to being pushed or even flipped by straight-line winds
      • If possible, orient your vehicle so that it points into the wind
    • Stay in the car and turn on the hazard lights until the wind subsides.
  • Caught outside -
    • Take cover in a well-built building, or use this building to block the wind if you cannot get inside.
    • Swath of Downed Trees
    • If no building is nearby, find the lowest spot and crouch low to the ground.
    • Stay away from trees or power lines, since these are easily felled by straight-line winds.
      • If you are in the middle of a forest, move to the lowest/smallest stand of trees
    • Stay clear of roadways or train tracks, as the winds may blow you into the path of an oncoming vehicle
    • Watch for flying debris. Tree limbs, street signs, and other objects may break and become flying projectiles in the wind.

If you venture outside after the storm has passed, be alert for downed power lines. Do not touch any downed wires or anything in contact with the wires.


Additional Information

Thunderstorm Safety Pamphlet (pdf)

 


USA.gov is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.