There weren’t any locusts or frogs, but last week, two downright biblical hailstorms hit Argentina, pelting the town of Formosa with huge — nearly four inches in diameter — chunks of ice and the town of La Cruz with enough to create five-foot mounds of hail in 15 minutes, according to reporting by the Argentinian news outlet La Nación.
Hailstorms are often mistakenly thought to be a cold-weather phenomenon, but they actually occur as a result of updrafts during thunderstorms, when quick air currents lift water droplets high enough that they freeze. Once the frozen droplets get too heavy, they fall back down to earth. While it’s autumn in the northern hemisphere, it’s currently the beginning of spring in Argentina. The last storm of this magnitude in the United States occurred in May, hitting the Denver area and causing an estimated $1.4 billion in damage, from things like car crashes and downed power lines.
As a result of climate change, hailstorms are expected to decrease in frequency over the coming years, but the size of hail is expected to increase, leading to more potentially dangerous and catastrophic storms, according to a June 2017 study published in Nature Climate Change.
If you’re stuck in a hailstorm, your first course of action should be finding shelter. If you’re driving, make sure to pull over, but stay in your car: It’s much safer there than it is outside with no cover, even though the sound of stones hitting the roof may be scary. Turn away from any windows to protect yourself from debris. If you are outside with no shelter available, just getting under a tree or bush can provide some cover. Otherwise, crouch and make sure to protect your skull with anything in reach.
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