Record Hailstorms and Hail Stones

By: Christopher C. Burt , 7:25 PM GMT on July 08, 2013

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Record Hailstorms and Hail Stones

There have been some interesting hail events the past few weeks. The town of Santa Rosa, New Mexico was hammered with up to a foot of hail accumulation last Wednesday July 3. Snowplows had to be employed to clear the highways. On June 25th a very rare, if not unprecedented, hailstorm struck Singapore. This is an updated blog to one I posted two years ago about the greatest hailstorms on record and the largest individual stones yet measured.

Recent extraordinary hailstorms



An intense hailstorm that lasted only 30 minutes managed to leave accumulations of up to one foot on the town of Santa Rosa, New Mexico on the evening of July 3, 2013. Snow plows had to be used to clear the streets. Photo courtesy of the Santa Rosa Fire Department.


Video 1. In Singapore, a freak wind and hailstorm struck the city on the afternoon of June 25th, 2013. Video accounts seem to indicate the hail stones measured up to at least ½”-1” in diameter. Singapore rests at sea level just 1° latitude north of the equator. It is extremely rare for hail, let alone large hail, to fall in the tropics at sea level. The storm cloud tops must have been very high.



A photograph of the hail stones that fell on Singapore on the afternoon of June 25, 2013. Photographer not identified.


Video 2. On July 6, 2013, an intense hailstorm occurred along a narrow streak between Airdie and Irricana in southwestern Alberta, Canada. Accumulations of 3-12" were observed in the streak which was about 2 miles wide and 10 miles long between the two towns.



An areal view of the hail streak that dropped up to a foot of hail in Irricana, Alberta, Canada in just 15-30 minutes on July 6, 2013. Photographer not identified.



Hailstorms and Hailstone Size in the U.S.A.

Costliest Hailstorms

There have been a handful of hailstorms that resulted in $1 billion or more in damages in the U.S. The costliest storm appears to be that of April 10, 2001 which cut a swath along the I-70 corridor from eastern Kansas to southwestern Illinois and pounded the St. Louis area. Property damage was in excess of $2.4 billion in 2010 dollars. The hailstorm that struck the Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas metro area on May 5, 1995 also caused an estimated $2 billion in damage (adjusted to current dollars). The only other $1 billion dollar hailstorm on record was that which pummeled the Front Range of Colorado between Colorado Springs and Fort Collins on July 11, 1990 causing $1.6 billion damage in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars.

Deadliest U.S. Hailstorms

In spite of the enormous crop and property damage that hailstorms have caused only three people have ever been killed by falling hailstones: 1) a farmer caught in his field near Lubbock, Texas on May 13, 1930 2) a baby struck by large hail in Fort Collins, Colorado on July 31, 1979, and 3) a boater on Lake Worth, Texas on March 29, 2000.

Largest Hail Stones



Mr. and Ms. Clarence Costner proudly display baseball-sized hail that fell on their farm near Norbonne, Missouri date unknown. Photo from Weatherwise Magazine, August 1976.

The largest officially recognized hailstone on record to have been ‘captured’ in the U.S. was that which fell near Vivian, South Dakota last summer (2010) on July 23rd. It measured 8.0” in diameter, 18 ½” in circumference, and weighed in at 1.9375 pounds. Mr. Lee Scott, who collected, the monster stone originally planned to make daiquiris out of the hail but fortunately thought better and placed it in a freezer before turning it over to the National Weather Service for certification.



The largest official hailstone ever collected in the U.S. An eight-inch monster that fell at Vivian, South Dakota on July 23, 2010. The stone was said to have been at least 10” in diameter when it fell but melted considerably after it was stored in a freezer that lost electricity due to the storm.

Other instances of 8-inch hail have been reported in the past but not certified. The U.S. Weather Bureau’s Climatological Data by Sections Vol. 22, Part 2 April-June, 1935 mentions a hailstorm producing 8-inch diameter hailstones at Ponca City, Oklahoma on April 17, 1935 (see p. 18 in the Oklahoma section).

Below is a list by state of the largest hailstones ever measured. Only a few states maintain an ‘official’ list of such records which I have listed first and then followed up with a list of ‘unofficial’ sizes by state that I have gathered from various sources. If any readers could add to this list or correct it, I would be much appreciative!





Bart McCarthy inspects a 5.5”-diamter hailstone that fell near Wisconsin Rapids on June 7, 2007. It is the 2nd largest hailstone on record for the state of Wisconsin. Photo from NWS Green Bay, Wisconsin archives.



A photograph of the oblong giant hailstone that was collected on the north shore of Hawaii’s Oahu Island on March 9, 2012. It measured 4.25” long and about 2” wide. Photographer not identified.

Hail Accumulations

Some hailstorms train over the same area (or stationary thunderstorms develop) producing massive hail accumulations. Hail accumulated to over 12” deep on level in El Dorado, Kansas on June 23, 1951 (and just recently at Santa Rosa, New Mexico as noted at the beginning of the blog) and a storm at Seldon, in northwest Kansas, left an 18”-deep accumulation of hail over a 54 square mile area on June 3, 1959.



An aerial view of a deep hail swath accumulation over Seldon, Kansas. The 18” of hail fell on the town on June 3, 1959. Photo from the Norton Telegram newspaper archives, Norton, Kansas.

Heavy rainfall following a hailstorm causes the hail accumulations to wash into ditches or creek beds and enormous piles of hail accumulate. This was the case during a storm south of Clayton, New Mexico on August 13, 2004 when a 12-inch hail accumulation was swept into a draw by 5” of rainfall. A culvert in the draw became clogged by the flow and the hail piled up to 15 feet deep behind it!



Hail cliffs 15 feet high line the bottom of a creek near Clayton, New Mexico following a deluge on August 13, 2004. The drifts took weeks to finally melt away. Photo by Barbara Podzemny.

Some Notes on Large Hail Around the World

Bangladesh and India

The deadliest hailstorms, and perhaps the largest hailstones, in the world occur on the Deccan Plateau of northern India and in Bangladesh. The heaviest authenticated hailstone ever measured was one of 2.25 pounds that fell in the Gopalanj district of Bangladesh on April 14, 1986. The stones size was not measured although anecdotal reports claimed the stones were the size of “pumpkins”. Ninety-two people perished as a result of the storm although how many of these can be attributed to the hail is uncertain. A hailstorm in the Moradabad and Beheri districts of India killed 246 people on April 30, 1888, the deadliest hailstorm on record in modern history.

China

In China 25 were killed by hail in Henan Province on July 19, 2002 and a possibly reliable report claims 200 were killed by hail in Hunan Province on June 19, 1932.

Europe

In Europe a hailstone weighing 2.14 pounds was measured following a storm in Strasbourg, France on August 11, 1958. The size was not noted. Europe’s most catastrophic hailstorm was that which struck Munich, Germany on July 12, 1984. Some 70,000 homes (and 190 aircraft!) were damaged and 400 people injured by hail the size of baseballs. Property damage was estimated at over US$2 billion.

Australia

Perhaps the single costliest hailstorm in world history was that which struck the Sydney, Australia area on April 14, 1999. Hailstones up to 3½” in diameter fell for almost 60 minutes damaging 20,000 structures and 40,000 vehicles. The total damage came to US$3 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars and remains Australia’s costliest natural disaster.

Canada

Canada’s largest hailstone of record was that collected at Cedoux, Saskatchewan on August 27, 1973. It measured 114 mm in diameter (4.5”) and weighed 290 grams (10.2 ounces). Probably the costliest hailstorm was that which affected 130 sq. kilometers in the Calgary, Alberta area on September 7, 1991. It caused $400 million in Canadian dollars damage.

Unsubstantiated Reports

There are many apocryphal or unsubstantiated stories of giant hailstones from many corners of the world including a stone weighing 4.18 pounds in Kazakhstan in 1959; an 11-pound stone in Guangxi Province, China in 1986; and, best of all, a hailstone the size of an “elephant” in Seringapatam, India sometime in the late 18th century! Many of these events are more likely not hailstones but hydrometeors, large chunks of ice that fall from the sky for some unknown reason or source.

REFERENCES: The only book I am aware that is solely devoted to hail is Snowden D. Flora’s classic Hailstorms of the United States published by the Univ. of Oklahoma Press back in 1956. It is still a great reference.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

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10. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
9:52 PM GMT on July 15, 2013
weatherhistorian has created a new entry.
9. Astrometeor
3:44 AM GMT on July 13, 2013
Quoting 8. BaltimoreBrian:
Just think if there were a way to measure how much precipitation was in those hailstorms. It seems like they would easily outclass the 1 hour record. I guess there is no way to account for hailstones splashing water out of a rain gauge. And it would have to be a barrel not a narrow tube.


It could be a narrow tube, the hail could block some rain after the hail fell from entering the gauge.
Member Since: July 2, 2012 Posts: 101 Comments: 10467
8. BaltimoreBrian
3:41 AM GMT on July 13, 2013
Just think if there were a way to measure how much precipitation was in those hailstorms. It seems like they would easily outclass the 1 hour record. I guess there is no way to account for hailstones splashing water out of a rain gauge. And it would have to be a barrel not a narrow tube.
Member Since: August 9, 2011 Posts: 26 Comments: 8813
7. bappit
5:05 PM GMT on July 11, 2013
Cool pics.

Nice American Gothic.

The hail streak is bizarre. Wait, the American Gothic one was bizarre.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6147
6. peregrinepickle
10:01 PM GMT on July 09, 2013
Because of the heavy focus on tornadoes, droughts, and wildfires, hail doesn't get as much attention in terms of its costs. 2011 and 2012 were the costliest on record in the US for hail damage (total of about $2.5 billion and that's just insured losses). Will be interesting to see if 2013 breaks this record. 2011 was the first year since 1948 that losses paid out for hail damage exceeded premiums. Hail premiums go up, so cost of food rises...pretty widely distributed economic impacts. Recently read that in Texas, the insurance industry considers hail the "costliest natural peril" threatening the state.
Member Since: March 31, 2013 Posts: 0 Comments: 6
5. georgevandenberghe
1:30 PM GMT on July 09, 2013
As a hobby gardener this is one weather parameter I can't reasonably protect against. Fortunately in forty years in DC PA NJ and FL I've only had serious hail damage once in DC in July 1991. Corn and squash were completely stripped.
Tomatoes did better. Recovery was rapid however and by early August no evidence of damage remained.
Member Since: February 1, 2012 Posts: 19 Comments: 2098
4. Neapolitan
12:47 AM GMT on July 09, 2013
Very interesting, Chris! I lived along the Front Range in Colorado for a while, and of course saw many hailstorms, but to this day, the worst hailfall I ever experienced was in Orange County, California, when I was in grade school, as an intense thunderstorm dropped nearly 4" of pea= and marble-sized hail in about 15 minutes. That was one of the first severe weather events I ever went through, and no doubt it contributed to my interest in extreme events.

Anyway, have you ever heard of Roopkund in India? Some years ago, an explorer happened upon the skeletons of hundreds of bodies in a remote valley three miles up in the Himalayas. At first thought to be the remains of a massacre, a mass suicide, or a landslide, it was finally determined that all 300 or so victims were killed at once by what must have been a truly monstrous hailstorm, with an onslaught of baseball-sized stones mercilessly pounding the victims.

Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13744
3. Astrometeor
9:13 PM GMT on July 08, 2013
Thanks Chris.

Drove away from a tornado-warned storm last year instead of seeking shelter. Was really happy, since that storm caused heavy damage due to tennis-sized hail impacting Nashville. The salutatorian that year of my school had his kitchen window smashed as he was cleaning dishes. He was surprised, needless to say.
Member Since: July 2, 2012 Posts: 101 Comments: 10467
2. Christopher C. Burt , Weather Historian
8:00 PM GMT on July 08, 2013
Quoting 1. pcola57:
Very interesting post Chris..
Two thumbs up.. :)

Is it really possible a chunk of ice the size of an elephant to occur??


RE: Elephant-size hail. Your're joking I hope! :-)
Member Since: February 15, 2006 Posts: 316 Comments: 296
1. pcola57
7:31 PM GMT on July 08, 2013
Very interesting post Chris..
Two thumbs up.. :)

Is it really possible a chunk of ice the size of an elephant to occur??
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6912

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About weatherhistorian

Christopher C. Burt is the author of 'Extreme Weather; A Guide and Record Book'. He studied meteorology at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison.