Hail is usually harmless. It arrives without warning and subsides just as fast leaving the ground peppered with little white ice balls. But can you imagine being bombarded from the sky with ice balls weighing almost two pounds!
Hail occurs during thunderstorms when excessive low moisture levels and wind sheer feed strong updrafts in which water droplets freeze. The longer they are up there tumulting about, the bigger they get. Finally, when they become too big and heavy, they fall to the earth.
Who knows how large some of these ice balls careening onto the earth were before anyone officially measured, weighed and certified them? The largest hail size ever recorded in the United States fell near Vivian, South Dakota on July 23, 2010. This 8-inch ice ball weighed 1.9375 pounds with a circumference of 18.5 inches. Fortunately, Lee Scott put this ball of ice in his freezer and sent it to the National Weather Service for certification.
Two other incidents of the largest hail size ever 8-inch hailstones have been reported but not certified in Ponca City, Oklahoma on April 17, 1935, and at Gay Hill, Texas on December 7, 1892.
Although we don’t know the size, we know that hail has caused serious damage to the earth. On what came to be known as Black Monday in April 1360, a sudden storm with huge hail, freezing rain, and wind descended onto a camp of English soldiers in the middle of the night killing almost 1,000 of them. The event was seen as a sign from God and resulted in a peaceful negotiation during the Hundred Years’ War.
The Seventh Plague of hail during the time of Moses convinced the Egyptians that Shu, the Egyptian god of the atmosphere was not controlling the atmosphere.
According to National Geographic Television, a group of nomads was killed in the 9th century on the Himalayas by giant hail. Scientists estimate the hail was as large as cricket balls.
- A hailstorm in India killed about 230 people and 1600 sheep and goats in April 1888.
- Hailstones as big as coconuts killed 26 people in South Africa on February 1, 1936.
- The heaviest hailstone authorities have recorded killed 92 people in Bangladesh on April 14, 1986.
- More recently, hail as large as grapefruits slammed down on Slovenia, Croatia, and Germany in June 2019 causing significant property damage.
- People usually talk about urban hailstorm property damage to cars and roofs. Damage to crops and agriculture is less well known but is a serious problem.
- Hailstorms hit a large part of India, causing significant crop damage, in February and March 2014 that inspired a written initiative to study crop damage from hailstorms and all aspects of hail.
- Hailstorm damage is relative to the size of a single ice ball, and how many of the smaller size pellets drop in an area. One of the worst hailstorms in Britain occurred on August 9, 1943, when it was almost five feet deep in places. They formed the General Hail Insurance Company to deal with the damage.
Hailstorms in New Mexico can be fairly common during the summer months when thunderstorms are more common. While large hail is rare, if you do get an especially intense hailstorm at your house, make sure you inspect your roof for damage. If you suspect anything is wrong, give us a call and we’ll come take a look for no charge.
Have you ever wondered if your insurance will go up if you make a hail damage report? We answer that question here.