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America’s 18,000-odd car dealerships face many threats. They are unpopular. Younger generations are driving less. Electric cars require less maintenance. Also, every so often chunks of ice fall from the sky and smash all the cars.
For car dealerships—and for the web of automakers, banks, and insurance houses that they sustain—hail is a menace. Because intense hailstorms form suddenly, as tight, dense wallops within larger thunderstorms, dangerous hail is challenging to predict. A squall can blow up with little warning, dump a few minutes of walnut-size hail, and damage hundreds of new cars as they sit on a lot. And a storm that’s hard to detect in advance is harder still to authenticate afterward. So when a car dealership files a hail claim, the insurance company usually doesn’t have much choice but to take its word, check a few photos, and cut a check.
Hail is, you might say, a hard problem. It is also becoming a bigger problem, a new study argues. The study, released today in draft form to The Weekly Planet, says that hail is expanding its footprint across the country at the same time that it is becoming more frequent in the central United States’ so-called Hail Alley. “Hail isn’t moving from Denver to Ohio—it’s falling in Denver and Ohio,” says Alex Kubicek, an author of the study.