The tail end of 2013 has seen hail storms leave a multi-million rand trail of destruction in Gauteng, with hail that's almost the size of tennis balls in some cases battering the bodywork and smashing the windscreens of cars caught in the open.
Amanda Thomas, general manager of online insurance comparison site hippo.co.za, has urged South Africans to be vigilant when storm conditions approach and has imparted some useful advice to bear in mind.
WATCH THE WEATHER
Staying indoors and keeping your car undercover during a hail storm most certainly offers the most protection against injury and damage. To reduce your risk of being caught in a storm, keep a close tab on the weather report and when hail is forecasted, try to make arrangements to park your car undercover and delay travelling until the storm has subsided.
NO MAD DASHING
That said, with the often unpredictable nature of hail storms, this isn't always practical or possible. If you are caught in a hail storm, look for cover. This could include a covered car park, a petrol station or under a bridge. However, take extreme care when pulling-over, put on your hazard lights, and don't risk your safety or the safety of others by dashing madly for cover.
Don't park under trees as there is a danger of falling branches and debris. Stay in your car and only leave the safety of your sheltered spot when the storm has passed,” advises Thomas.
If there is no shelter nearby, motorists are urged to pull-over onto the side of the road if it is safe to do so. In an unsheltered spot, hail damage is inevitable but, it is safer not to drive through a storm when visibility is poor, the roads are slick and there is a risk of aquaplaning through deep pools of water and hail.
USE HEAVY BLANKETS
Another idea is to keep heavy blankets in your car. This will provide you with a protective covering that you can throw over the bonnet of your car to prevent hail damage.
DOUBLE-CHECK YOUR POLICY
While taking precautions to prevent being caught in a hail storm is first prize, it is also crucially important to have adequate cover against hail damage with a reputable insurance provider.
Some insurers insist on cover for hail damage to be specified in the policy and you may have to pay extra for it. Check your policy and make certain that you're adequately covered.