NWS: 4 Fast Facts About Hail

March 3, 2017

A powerful storm system blew through a large swath of the nation’s midsection, spawning deadly tornadoes, blowing cars off roads and causing property damage, including from hail.

Here are some hail facts, according to the National Weather Service:


Inside thunderstorms are warm updrafts and cold downdrafts. When a water drop is lifted, it can carry to temperatures below 32 degrees, freeze and then fall. As it falls it can thaw as it moves into warmer air, where it can get picked up again by another updraft, returning it to cold air where it refreezes. With each trip above and below freezing, it adds a layer of ice before it ultimately falls to earth as hail.

HAIL SIZES (diameter)

Pea: 1/4 inch

Marble: 1/2 inch

Penny: 3/4 inch

Nickel: 7/8 inch

Quarter: 1 inch (hail at least quarter size is considered severe)

Pingpong ball: 11/2 inch

Golf ball: 13/4 inch

Tennis ball: 21/2 inches

Baseball: 23/4 inches

Grapefruit: 4 inches

Softball: 41/2 inches


The largest recorded hailstone in the U.S. was nearly as big as a volleyball and fell on July 23, 2010, in Vivian, South Dakota. It was 8 inches in diameter and weighed almost 2 pounds.


Hail causes about $1 billion damage to crops and property annually. A hailstorm that hit Kansas City on April 10, 2001, was the costliest ever in the U.S., causing about $2 billion damage.

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