A hail map can identify the precise location a storm hit. Hail is a form of solid precipitation. It is distinct from American sleet (called ice pellets outside of the United States). It consists of balls or irregular lumps of ice, each of which is called a hailstone. Sleet (ice pellets) falls generally in cold weather while hail does best during warm surface temperatures.
Hail is precipitation in the form of rounded pellets of ice and hard snow that usually falls during thunderstorms. Hail forms when raindrops are blown up and down within a cloud. These raindrops pass repeatedly through layers of warm and freezing air collecting layers of ice until they are too heavy for the winds to keep them from falling.
Unlike graupel, which is made of rime, and ice pellets, hailstones consist mostly of water ice and measure between 0.2 inches and 6 inches in diameter. The METAR reporting code for hail 5 mm (0.20 in) or greater is GR, while smaller hailstones and graupel are coded GS.
Hail is possible within most thunderstorms as it is produced by cumulonimbi clouds. And within 2 nautical miles (3.7 km) of the parent storm. Hail formation requires a strong upward motion of air with the parent thunderstorm (similar to tornadoes) and lowered heights of the freezing level. In the mid-latitudes, hail forms near the interiors of continents, while in the tropics, it tends to be confined to high elevations.
There are methods available to detect hail-producing thunderstorms using weather satellites and weather radar imagery. A hail map is an invaluable resource. Hailstones generally fall at higher speeds as they grow in size, though complicating factors such as melting, friction with air, wind, and interaction with rain and other hailstones can slow their descent through Earth’s atmosphere. Severe weather warnings are issued for hail when the stones reach a damaging size, as it can cause serious damage to human-made structures and, most commonly, farmers’ crops.
The 30 worst Hailstorms in US history
By Frederick Reese – July 19, 2019
2017 was the worst on record for hail damage in the United States. Per the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, the country suffered more than $22 billion in insured losses. This is more than the losses for a typical hurricane. In the Midwest and the South, auto insurance holders are prohibited from having comprehensive coverage due to the high cost of hail damage.
Below is a list of the 30 most destructive cases of hail in the nation’s history. This list is ordered in chronological order, and not in order of damage validation. Experts say 2019 is believed to be on pace to break the record for hail damage.
June 23, 1784 | Wateree River, SC
Eight people were reported killed by a single hailstorm. This is the largest reported death toll from a single hailstorm in the United States. Per a report from the South Carolina Gazette, the ice balls reached circumferences of 9 inches and killed a wide array of sheep and geese.
July 6, 1928 | Potter, NE
In Cheyenne County, Wyo., the largest hailstones reported to date fell. With one hailstone measured at 17 inches in circumference and weighing 1.5 pounds, the storm was reported to cause minimal damage. The storm was preceded by a brief storm of smaller stones.
June 3, 1959 | Selden, KS
This was one of the largest hailstorms by total precipitation. 18 inches of hail accumulated, covering an area of 140 square kilometers, the heavy, motionless storm pummeled the area, leaving the region white with ice. The storm devastated crops that year, with damages totaling a half a million dollars. The storm lasted 85 minutes, making it one of the longest hailstorms in American history.
Sept. 2, 1960 | Southern California
Golf ball and baseball-sized hailstorms hit Los Angeles, with some stones weighing in at over 1 pound. The storm also hit Riverside County, while San Bernardino was subjected to severe thunder. With2 to 3 inches of precipitation, the storm was the largest hailstorm in Southern California history.
Dec. 1, 1967 | Los Angeles, CA
Seven years after the storm of 1960, LA was hit again by a major hailstorm. The storm covered much of the county in hail, giving the appearance of a snowstorm. The hail came due to a severe thunderstorm, where lightning struck a Manhattan Beach oil tanker, making it explode.
Sept. 3, 1970 | Coffeyville, KS
The largest hailstorm to fall in the United States (at the time) hit Coffeyville. The stone weighing 1.67 pounds, was 5.7 inches in diameter – making it roughly the size of a softball.
July 30, 1979 | Fort Collins, CO
For 40 minutes, the Fort Collins area of Colorado was peppered by grapefruit-sized hailstones. The storm injured 25 – most with head injuries – while damaging over 2,000 homes and 2,500 cars. A 3 month old baby was also killed from a fractured skull.
Aug. 1, 1980 | Orient, IA
During a hailstorm in the summer of 1980, Ferris Wheel riders in Orient were left stranded when the storm knocked out power to the ride. Left exposed, they were assaulted by ice balls, with some reaching 3 inches in diameter. Forty seven people were severely injured.
July 11, 1990 | Denver, CO
Colorado is in part in Hail Alley, where the highest frequency of hailstorms occur in North America. In 1990, the third most expensive hailstorm hit the Denver metropolitan area, when softball-sized ice balls destroyed roofs and cars to the tune of $625 million in damages ($1.22 billion in 2019 dollars).
June 19, 1992 | Wichita, KS
Two separate hailstorms – six hours apart from each other – hit the Wichita metropolitan a rea, inflicting half a billion dollars in property damage and $100 million in crop damage. The wheat harvest for the year was lost, leaving the storm one of the most destructive in Kansas state history. The storm left over 10,000 homes damaged.
May 5, 1995 | Dallas & Fort Worth, TX
The 1995 Mayfest storm was a supercell that hit the Fort Worth area May 5th and 6th. The storm is so named because it struck while the outdoor music festival Mayfest was happening. Festival-goers were struck by hailstones reaching 4 inches in width. The hail injured more than 100, with deaths from the storm being accounted to accompanying flash flooding and lightning. The storm, at the time, was the costliest in American history at over $2 billion in damages.
March 29, 2000 | Lake Worth, TX
The last American known to die from a hail strike was killed during this storm, when a softball-sized hailstone struck Juan Oseguera’s head. Juan was 19.
May 18, 2000 | Chicagoland, IL
One of the most infrastructure-impairing hailstorms hit on May 18. Hailstones reached softball size, the storm heavily impacted McHenry, Lane, Kane and Cook counties, with over 100,000 homes losing power and hail accumulation hitting over 3 inches. Flight and train services were impacted, compromising travel across the nation.
April 10, 2001 | St. Louis, MO
The most destructive hailstorm regarding property damage in the United States happened in 2001, when the I-70 corridor from eastern Kansas to southwestern Illinois was devastated by a series of storms that yielded baseball-sized hailstones. The storm caused over $2 billion in total damages. It is thought that almost every single home and places of business in St. Louis County was damaged by the storm.
June 22, 2003 | Aurora, NE
The record for the largest hailstone was broken on June 22nd, when a 7 inch wide stone fell in Aurora. Hailstorms are formed by vertical cyclones of wind. The more powerful the storm, the stronger the wind, and the longer the stone can stay adrift – making them larger and larger. The hailstorm that hit the town came following an F2 tornado.
April 20-21, 2006 | San Marcos, TX
Four inch hail struck San Marcos hard in 2006. The resulting damage led to over 10,000 auto-insurance claims and 7,000 property claims. While only one person was seriously injured, the damage was divesting to a local Toyota dealership.
July 20, 2009 | Denver, CO
Colorado’s second worst hailstorm came in 2009, where the Denver metropolitan area was hit for $914.3 million in today’s dollars. As most of Colorado’s property is concentrated in the Denver metro area, Denver has been the site of seven of the state’s 10 worst hailstorms in the last 11 years. In 2008, only Kansas and Texas had more hailstorms than Colorado.
May 10 & 16, 2010 | Oklahoma City, OK
Two hailstorms spaced less than a week apart, inflicted nearly $1.6 billion in property damage to the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. It was estimated that the storms yielded about 700 processed auto-insurance claims a day, with some northwest neighborhoods needing more than 90% of the roofs replaced.
July 23, 2010 | Vivian, SD
The record for the largest hailstone (which stands today) was set on July 23, 2010, when a bowling ball-sized hailstone landed in Vivian. Measuring 7.87 inches in diameter and weighing nearly 2 pounds. The stone fell during a storm marked by 80 mph winds and a brief tornado.
Oct. 5, 2010 | Phoenix, AZ
A storm in 2010 peppered the Phoenix area with 2 inch hailstones. The barrage damaged cars, homes and businesses to the tune of $2.7 billion in property damage. The situation left Arizona near the top of the list for states with the most insured property loss in 2010.
April 5, 2010 | Kalamazoo, MI
Ping-pong ball-sized hail was reported in Kalamazoo on April 5th. The storm damaged cherry trees and grape vineyards in the area. It was estimated at the time that half of the Van Buren grape’s production was severely compromised. The storm was marked by 72 mph winds.
April 28, 2012 | St. Louis, MO
The second most expensive hailstorm in American history hit St. Louis in 2012. The storms (two waves of supercells in close proximity) yielded baseball-sized hailstones that damaged businesses and homes in the St. Charles and St. Louis counties in Missouri, St. Louis city, and Madison, St. Clair, Clinton and Washington counties in Illinois. The storm yielded one injury and $41.6 billion in insured losses.
June 13, 2012 | Dallas and Fort Worth, TX
Softball sized hailstones inflicted critical damage to the Dallas-Fort Worth area to the tune of $900 million. This was the fourth most expensive hailstorm in Texas history at the time, with the storms also yielding an F0 tornado and 85 mph winds.
May 29, 2012 | Oklahoma City, OK
In 2012, parts of Oklahoma, including Oklahoma City, were in drought conditions. The rain was desperately hoped for. It came, along with baseball-sized hail. Two were beset with non-serious injuries from the storm that saw stones reach over 4 inches in diameter. Over 85,000 were left without power.
March 18, 2013 | Hinds County, MS
Hinds county, which is one of the three counties that host the state capital of Jackson, was subject to a hailstorm that also hit 13 other counties. The storm left extensive tree and property damage, but no injuries or death. Hailstones were reported to be the size of baseballs.
April 3, 2014 | Denton, TX
In 2014, three tornadoes touched down in the same day. Two EF1s and one EF0 were reported in the are, as well as hail with a diameter of 3.5 inches and winds reaching 82 mph. Four injuries were reported.
April 16, 2016 | San Antonio, TX
The costliest hailstorm in Texas history hit San Antonio on April 16, 2016. The storm pummeled San Antonio with hailstones the size of grapefruit. With $1.4 billion in damages, the storm caused significant damage to homes, cars, and businesses.
May 8, 2017 | Denver, CO
The most expensive hailstorm in Colorado history, the 2017 storm forced the closure of the Colorado Mills Mall and inflicted more damage than the state’s worst wildfire. With the storm coming during the late day rush hour, many motorists attempting to get home had their cars damaged from the hail strikes. The storm yielded $2.3 billion in damages.
June 9, 2017 | Minneapolis, MN
Lasting over a week, the storm reaching from Texas to Minnesota inflicted over $2.5 billion in hail damage to the Twin Cities area. Neighborhoods in Brooklyn Park, Coon Rapids and Blaine were destroyed, with the storm being ranked as one of the worst for the state of Minnesota in the last 20 years.
June 19, 2018 | Arapahoe, CO
Half-dollar sized ice balls pounded the Arapahoe area in June 2019. The area located east of the Denver metropolitan area near the state border, caused damage to crops, dented cars and broke windows. Roof damage in the area was significant, resulting in considerable water damage.
States with the most hailstorms
Hail is frozen rain that is larger and heavier than other forms of ice precipitation, such as sleet, graupel, and ice pellets. Formed in thunderstorms, hail happens when a strong updraft pushes rain into cumulonimbus clouds. If the freezing level is lowered, such as during a tornado in the inland areas of the country, the rain will freeze. The new ice crystal will drop, attracting new rain droplets, before being pushed back up the wind cyclone to freeze and drop again. This repeats for as long as the updraft can support the ice crystal. Once the ice ball becomes so heavy the updraft can no longer keep it afloat, it will drop to the ground. This is known as hail. While it is rare to die from these ice blasts, the high velocity and weight of these ice balls have been known to shatter windows, punch holes in roofs, damage wall siding, kill plants and livestock, and dent cars. While most hail stays small, occasionally, a strong storm will produce hailstones of monstrous sizes.
Already in 2019, thousands of hailstorms have rocked the country. Hailstorms can occur from May through September but are most common during spring months. The ice rocks aren’t just a bother but an economic disaster; in some parts of the country, hail damage costs billions, affecting homes, businesses, and vehicles.
There are easy ways to prepare for a hailstorm. If driving, one should immediately find shelter under an overpass, gas station, or another roofed area. At home, stay inside and wait out the storm. Hailstorms generally don’t cause human casualties, just damage to property, but it’s better to be safe and stay inside if possible. When it’s over, inspect roofs and windows for damage and leaks, and check vehicles for dents or broken glass before going inside.
Some states have weather patterns and geography that are much more conducive to hailstorms. Others not so much. Good news for residents of Rhode Island, Delaware, Alaska, and Hawaii: No significant hailstorms have hit these states in recent years, so they’ve been omitted from this list. Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association was used to rank every state and the territory of Puerto Rico by how many hailstorms it experienced between January 2009 and December 2018, with ties broken by the amount of property damage they caused.
#47 – New Hampshire | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 1 | Total property damage: $10,000
# 46 – Maine | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 1 | Total property damage: $1 million
#45 – Oregon | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 2 | Total property damage: $1,200
#44 – Connecticut | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 4 | Total property damage: $130,000
#43 – New Jersey | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 5 | Total property damage: $21,000
#42 – Washington | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 6 | Total property damage: $22,750
#41 – Massachusetts | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 7 | Total property damage: $3.1 million
#40 – Maryland | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 9 | Total property damage: $788,000
#39 – Florida | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 9 | Total property damage: $791,550
#38 – Nevada | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 12 | Total property damage: $105 million
#37 – Utah | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 15 | Total property damage: $399,000
#38 – Idaho | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 24 | Total property damage: $31.6 million
#35 – Puerto Rico | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 29 | Total property damage: $519,100
#34 – Vermont | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 31 | Total property damage: $508,000
#33 – California | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 32 | Total property damage: $20.4 million
#32 – Alabama | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 37 | Total property damage: $3.6 million
#31 – Tennessee | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 37 | Total property damage: #31.5 million
#30 – Arizona | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 39 | Total property damage: #2.8 billion
#29 – Montana | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 42 | Total property damage: $61.9 million
#28 – Indiana | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 47 | Total property damage: $4.7 million
#27 – Virginia | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 49 | Total property damage: $2.1 million
#26 – Illinois | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 58 | Total property damage: $130.2 million
#25 – Colorado | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 67 | Total property damage: $4.3 billion
#24 – Pennsylvania | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 69 | Total property damage: $1.7 million
#23 – Louisiana | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 69 | Total property damage: $2.4 million
#22 – Michigan | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 79 | Total property damage: $285.5 million
#21 – Wyoming | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 81 | Total property damage: $62.6 million
#20 – Kentucky | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 87 | Total property damage: $8 million
#19 – Minnesota | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 90 | Total property damage: $13 million
#18 – Wisconsin | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 113 | Total property damage: $62.1 million
#17 – West Virginia | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 118 | Total property damage: $6.3 million
#16 – Missouri | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 128 | Total property damage: $19.3
#15 – New Mexico | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 136 | Total property damage: $28.1 million
#14 – Arkansas | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 177 | Total property damage: $71 million
#13 – North Dakota | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 177 | Total property damage: $95.1 million
#12 – New York | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 183 | Total property damage: $3.5 million
#11 – North Carolina | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 193 | Total property damage: $26.1 million
#10 – Georgia | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 251 | Total property damage: $239.5 million
#9 – Kansas | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 289 | Total property damage: $242.3 million
#8 – Mississippi | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 324 | Total property damage: $566.3 million
#7 – South Dakota | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 336 | Total property damage: $116 million
#6 – Ohio | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 351 | Total property damage: $105.4 million
#5 – Oklahoma | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: $368 | Total property damage: $460.5 million
#4 – South Carolina | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 424 | Total property damage: $13.6 million
#3 – Nebraska | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 821 | Total property damage: $136.7 million
#2 – Iowa | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 1,301 | Total property damage: $70.7 million
#1 – Texas | Total hailstorms, 2009-2018: 1,626 | Total property damage: $7.7 Billion
Get started today, become an Insurance Claims Adjuster. You need either the ALL LINES or PROPERTY & CASUALTY license. AdjusterLicenseOnline and TXALA offer both of these licenses through TEXAS. Why Texas? Because Texas has reciprocity with over 30 states. This means you can work claims in all of those states with just this one license. Regardless if you already have a license from another state, you will still want a Texas license. Most successful adjusters have a Texas license. Click here to Register.