Weather Blog

Now that is some major league hail

Now that is some major league hail

Imagine it raining golf balls around your home and your poor car is outside.

In Oklahoma, it's an occasional fact of life.

A local reader whose nephew, Joshua Loree, is at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater captured these incredible photos of some large hail stones that fell during a big thunderstorm on June 12. That one at the top looks about the size of a baseball!

In all, Loree suffered $2,500 damage to his car.

Hail forms when rain droplets get pushed higher into the atmosphere by strong upward winds. As the droplets go higher, it freezes into an ice stone known as hail. It then becomes heavier, and falls downward, picking up another coating of raindrops on its way down.

If the updrafts are strong enough, it'll blow the hail back up again, where the coating freezes, making the hail larger, then falling back downward. This process repeats until the hail is heavier than the updraft can support, when it'll finally fall to the ground. The stronger the updraft, the larger the hail stone will become.

It's said it takes an updraft of 56 mph for a hailstone to become golf-ball sized, so I gather the updrafts in this particular storm must have been even stronger.

Loree said he estimated wind speeds from the lower level of clouds running around 100 mph. He said those winds didn't translate as strong near the ground, but show the strength of the storm.

Here are some more photos he captured, with the final photo of Oklahoma State's stadium. Note the teal tinge to the clouds in the background -- that is a sign of hail in the atmosphere. I've seen this myself when in the MidWest -- it really is a gorgeous sight right up until you start getting pelted.

Anyway, the teal color is from the hail stones refracting the sunlight. 

Luckily hail doesn't get anywhere near that large in the Northwest because our storms are considerably weaker. Usually about dime-size is as big as we go, although we'll rarely get to nickel size in Eastern Washington and Oregon.

In case you are wondering, the largest hailstone ever recorded was a solid 7" in diameter, observed in Aurora, Nebraska in June, 2003. That's roughly the size of a soccer ball.