With parts of South Africa being hit by extreme weather this time of year, South Africans are urged to be vigilant in protecting themselves and their assets during hail season, both at home and on the road.
“Although vehicles are usually the hardest hit, major hailstorms also result in damage to roofs, windows, sliding doors, skylights, garden and outdoor equipment. Make sure that both your vehicle, homeowners and home contents insurance adequately covers you against damage to property caused by hail,” says Ricardo Coetzee, the head of Auto & General Insurance.
Auto & General offers the following tips to keep in mind this rainy season:
- Keep a close eye on the weather forecast and any up-to-the-minute websites or apps that can alert you to an approaching hailstorm.
- If you are in a place that offers shelter against an approaching storm, rather stay put until the storm has subsided.
- 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.
On the road:
- Don’t park under trees as there is a risk of falling branches and debris.
- If you are on the road and get caught in a hailstorm, look for cover. This could include a covered car park or a petrol station. 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. Stay in your car and only leave the safety of your sheltered spot when the storm has passed.
- Remember that, with the sudden drop in temperature during a hailstorm, your car’s windows will be more prone to fogging up, hampering visibility, so make sure that your car’s defogger is working properly.
- Gutters should be kept clean and free of debris to channel ice and water away from the roof.
- Outdoor equipment and furniture should be moved undercover, if possible, when a heavy storm is forecast.
- Roof structures should be checked to ensure that they won’t buckle under the weight of the hail in the event of a blocked drainage system.
- General and regular home maintenance, like clearing debris from gutters, is essential and will most definitely limit damages and discomfort in times of disaster.
- Turn off gas and electricity if flooding occurs.
- Motorists should not attempt to drive in flood conditions. Remember that just 15cm of moving water can knock you off your feet and water just 60cm deep can sweep a vehicle away. Generally, if the water is deeper than the bottom of your doors or the bottom third of your wheels, it is not advisable to drive through it.
- Flash flooding often occurs when rivers flow over low-lying bridges. Avoid crossing bridges or roads next to rivers during heavy rains. If you do get stuck on a flooded road, it’s best to switch to the lowest possible gear and proceed slowly. If you approach a flooding storm water drain at speed, it is advisable to take your foot off the accelerator and let your speed drop gradually. Never use the brakes suddenly because this may cause the car to skid or aquaplane.
- If trapped in a vehicle during flooding, rather abandon the vehicle and climb to higher ground. It is dangerous to try and drive out of the water to safety.