Hail study could save Omaha residents money, scientists seek funding

Project ICECHIP would use state-of-the-art technology to help scientists better understand hail
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Published: Dec. 3, 2022 at 11:33 AM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Scientists are working to save you money by better understanding hail.

It’s part of a proposed field study called ICECHIP, which would use state-of-the-art technology to better understand hail.

“You don’t realize, until you actually watch a big hailstorm unfold, what it can do, whether it’s to vehicles or your home, your business, those kinds of things until after the fact when you’re like my goodness, this was not fun and we need to do something about this,” said Ian Giammanco, lead research meteorologist with the insurance institute for business and home safety.

The proposed field study would be the first of its kind in the U.S. in the past 40 years and if approved by the National Science Foundation, will examine multiple aspects of hail.

“We would actually chase hailstorms, we would try to get out in front of them and lay down all kinds of instrumentation so we can learn about what kind of hail is falling, but then also use things like mobile radars or unpiloted radio systems to fly around,” said Becky Adams-Selin, senior manager of science at Verisk atmospheric and environmental research.

Trouble is, Project ICECHIP isn’t fully funded yet and there’s a chance it might not be.

Scientists need your help to make this field study a reality.

“We are definitely looking for the general public to help because the general public, they can submit a lot more hail reports than we can try to go chase down,” says Adams-Selin.

It’s as simple as taking a photo and submitting your findings to the national weather service.

If enough photos are processed into the official record, scientists will have an easier time proving a field study is warranted.

“Hail has become a big financial concern. It actually generates anywhere between 60-80 percent of the damage we see every single year from severe thunderstorms,” Giammanco said.

“There’s a lot of things about that hail beyond just its size that affect how the damage happens. You can have hail that’s blown by wind and that can effectively damage your roof. You can have a whole bunch of small hail and that can really affect some of your crops,” says Adams-Selin.

How exactly hail damages crops is a question scientists at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln are hoping to answer. Their connection to Project ICECHIP will focus on hail’s impact on corn with the goal of establishing preventative measures for farmers.

“Obviously, you can’t cover the crop, but you can know things like ‘OK, it hailed. I can expect this type of pest to come, " Adams-Selin said.

That could lead to lower prices for you at the grocery store and the research could pay off for you at home as well.

“If you’re tired of dealing with hail damage year after year or every three or four years where you find yourself having to get a new roof, there are better products out there and that’s one of the goals itself, is to collect enough information about hail to make our tests for building products better and that’s ultimately going to find their way onto our homes, to really make them stand up to a hazard we haven’t thought about in a long time,” Giammanco said.

Project ICECHIP passed the first phase of funding. Now, scientists across the U.S. are waiting to hear from the National Science Foundation sometime in January, to learn if project ICECHIP is a “go.”

Regardless, scientists 6 News spoke with say if the project doesn’t pass this year, there’s still hope for future field studies. That’s why they say it’s so important you do your part to help document weather patterns in your area.

Unfortunately on Friday, the decision not to fund the project ice chip was decided.

Scientists say they remain hopeful the project will be approved next year.