World’s Largest Hailstones

By: Christopher C. Burt , 5:44 AM GMT on April 30, 2011

Share this Blog
4
+

World’s Largest Hailstones

Large hail has accompanied the recent spate of tornado outbreaks across the U.S. including stones 4.5” in diameter in the Abilene, Texas area on April 24 and possible state records for largest hailstone on record in Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia during just this past month. This blog is a revue of the greatest hailstorms on record and the largest individual stones yet measured.

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

Costliest

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

In spite of the enormous crop and property damage that hailstorms have caused only three people have ever been killed by falling hailstones in the United States: 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 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 hailstone 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.

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”-diameter 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.

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 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. Photo by Barbara Podzemny.

Some Notes on Large Hail Around the World



A map of world hail incidence. The most hail prone spot on the planet is Kericho, Kenya that averages about 50 days of hail each year and, in 1965, recorded 113 days of hail. Map by Mark Stroud and from my book ‘Extreme Weather: A Guide and Record Book’ p. 162.

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 Gopalganj 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.



A hailstorm bears down on Sydney, date unknown. Photo by Carl Ord.

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.

The best hail-related web site is hail.org.

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 6 - 1

Page: 1 — Blog Index

6. mkhatun6
5:41 PM GMT on July 06, 2012
Nice apps. I am using some of these,but I think that ,,Plan" app should be mentioned too. But it's new, so I guess it's the reason why app is not in list. This app solves all my planning problems, it definitely increased my productivity. china post tracking
Member Since: July 6, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
5. mkhatun119
7:54 AM GMT on June 27, 2012
Nice apps. I am using some of these,but I think that ,,Plan" app should be mentioned too. But it's new, so I guess it's the reason why app is not in list. This app solves all my planning problems, it definitely increased my productivity. china post tracking
Member Since: June 27, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
3. GardenGrrl
7:23 AM GMT on May 01, 2011
Thank you. Great blog.
Member Since: March 25, 2007 Posts: 244 Comments: 8894
2. xtreme41
8:31 PM GMT on April 30, 2011
As a person who can't get enough history, this is easily one of the best blogs online. Always infomative and definitely very cool stuff you put out. I always look forward to new items. Thanks.
Member Since: April 30, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 6
1. TomTaylor
7:11 AM GMT on April 30, 2011
Thanks for the blog!

Also, if you run a simple search on news articles of the hailstorms in Vivian, SD last year, there are several quotes from the man who picked up the hailstone and apparently the stone he picked up was not the largest of then all. The man said he only picked that partucular stone because he thought it looked funny. In addition, the man who kept the hailstone in his freezer for several hours because he didn't decide to report it to the nws until later. Unfortunately, for the several hours he kept it in his freezer, his house was without power, so it likely lost some size.

So, it is likely that some of the hailstones that feel that day were in excess of 2lbs, possibly heavier than the Bangladesh hailstone record.

Here are some news articles where you can find more info on it if you don't believe me

NWS report - Link


Keloland TV news channel report - Link


Of course one must also wonder how many hailstones have gone unreported in locations of India and Bangladesh. The largest hailstones can get is probably no larger than 3 lbs.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357

Viewing: 6 - 1

Page: 1 — Blog Index

Top of Page

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.