Did you know that currently residing in Boulder, CO is the largest hailstone ever recorded in the US? Weighing just shy of 2 pounds and measuring a whopping 8 inches in diameter, the stone landed in South Dakota back in July of 2010; The National Center of Atmospheric Research in Boulder has been housing the stone ever since.

While this monolithic hail stone was a rare occurrence, smaller stones do make a regular appearance throughout the spring and summer months and even a brief hail storm can create considerable damage. During thunderstorms, rain can freeze as it gets caught in updraft of air; this is how hail is formed. “As the air hits the mountains, it rises up,” explains Meteorologist Brian Edwards. “When you have elevations of 10-15,000 feet, that really can help the updrafts become stronger than they would on the East Coast.” No wonder the region just east of the Rocky Mountains has been nicknamed “Hail Alley”.

Of course insurance companies factor hail into annual premiums throughout Hail Alley knowing the inevitability of claims due to hail damage. In fact, depending on your location, up to half of your premium could be going to hail and wind damage costs. NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center posits Denver averaging 13 days of severe hail per year. At least 3 or 4 catastrophic hail storms, defined as producing a minimum of $25 million in insured damage, are anticipated annually. Some experts have estimated insurance payouts over the last decade have been north of $3 billion for hail devastation within Colorado alone.