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Sleet vs Hail: What Are the Differences?

Does the idea of high winds and rain pale in comparison to chunks of ice? If so, you’re not alone. Sleet and hail are dangerous, in part, because they can sneak up on unsuspecting residents.

There’s some debate over the exact lines between hail and sleet, but the two are similar enough that you should make sure you know how to spot them and remain safe.

So what to know between sleet vs hail, and how can you tell them apart? Keep reading to find out.

Sleet vs Hail: Formation

There are several key differences between sleet and hail formation. For one, what is sleet? It is smaller in size than hail and it falls from clouds that are lower in the atmosphere than those from which hail originates.

Sleet is also generally less dense than hail and forms when snowflakes melt as they fall through warmer air, then re-freeze as they pass through cooler air near the ground.

Hail is usually much larger in size and falls from much higher elevations in the atmosphere. It is also very dense and forms when water droplets are frozen around a nucleus, such as a piece of dust or dirt.


What is hail? It is larger and heavier than sleet pellets, so they fall at a much faster speed. Also, hailstones form in thunderstorms that are typically associated with strong downdrafts of air. These downdrafts can reach speeds of more than 100 mph, which further increases the speed at which hailstones fall.

Sleet forms in storms with lighter updrafts of air. As a result, sleet typically falls at a slower speed than hail.

Destructive Power

Sleet is frozen rain that falls in pellets, while hail is a form of solid precipitation that falls as balls or lumps. Both can cause significant damage to property, but hail is generally considered more destructive than sleet.

Hailstones can grow to be very large and fall at high speeds, which can cause serious injury or death. Sleet, on the other hand, is less likely to cause serious damage or injury.

If you’re unlucky enough to have your vehicle hail damaged, there are a few things you can do to fix it. First, assess the damage. If it’s a few dings, you can try to fix it yourself with a dent repair kit.

If it is more extensive, you’ll need to take it to a body shop for hail damage repair. They’ll be able to fix it for you, but it will likely be expensive.


The two main types of winter precipitation are sleet and hail. They are both fairly rare, but hail is even rarer than sleet.

Hail occurs during thunderstorms when the rising air within the thunderstorm lifts the water droplets high into the atmosphere where they freeze into ice pellets. The ice pellets are then carried by the storm’s strong updrafts and downdrafts until they grow large enough to fall from the cloud.

Take Precautions Against Winter Precipitation

Knowing sleet vs hail, both cause serious damage to your home and vehicle. To protect your home, take precautions by inspecting your roof regularly for any damage, and be sure to park in a garage or carport whenever possible, and if you must park outdoors, choose a covered area.

If you live in an area prone to severe weather, consider investing in hurricane shutters or other forms of protection. By taking these precautions, you can help reduce the risk of damage to your home from sleet and hail.

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