Depending on where you live, hail can be either a sporadic, mildly irritating event or a potentially devastating, destructive threat.

According to the National Weather Service, hailstones fall to earth from 30,000 feet, reaching up to 120 mph before they hit people, animals, vegetation, vehicles and structures. These storms cause $1 billion in damages to crops and property each year, the agency says.

The area where Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming meet is known as “hail alley.”

Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming usually have the most hailstorms, according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory. The area where these three states meet is known as “hail alley,” and it averages seven to nine hail days each year.

But hailstorms can happen anywhere, and even small hailstorms can shatter windows, smash roofs, and leave pockmarks in siding and cause thousands of dollars in damage to your property, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

Identify hail damage after a storm

Here are some guidelines on how to look for hail damage following a storm:

  • Look for dents, cracks or breaks on windows, screens, doors and even patio furniture.
  • Examine outdoor appliances like air conditioning units, and look for dents or excessive water intake.
  • Check trees and shrubs; if they’re stripped of foliage, there’s a possibility your roof might be damaged, says the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.
  • Inspect your vehicle(s) for cracked or broken glass, or dents caused by hail.

Be safe when checking roof damage; consider using binoculars, or call a professional.

Take action if you find damage

Of course, if you do find any damage, you should take quick action. Take pictures before you make any temporary repairs. And, cover any damaged areas to prevent additional negative effects from the storm. For example, board up any broken windows or cover a hole in a roof with a tarp.

Tip: Take pictures of hail damage before you make temporary repairs.

Regardless of the level of damage, you’ll also want to promptly report it to your insurance company, which may have recommendations on finding a contractor.

You can also check with friends, family or neighbors for advice on hiring a trustworthy contractor to repair damage. Just remember to save all the receipts; you’ll likely need them for your insurance claim (and it’s a general best practice, anyway).

So, the next time you spot threatening clouds, take cover and keep this hail damage checklist at the ready. And as Always, Contact John Closterides, Elmhurst Allstate Insurance Agent for information about Hail Damage and your home