Massive hail stones fall in tiny South Dakota town, challenge U.S. record

2010-07-27T06:45:00Z 2010-08-02T12:46:20Z Massive hail stones fall in tiny South Dakota town, challenge U.S. recordMary Garrigan Journal staff Rapid City Journal
July 27, 2010 6:45 am  • 

Vivian: Hail Capital of the U.S.?

Meteorologists from the National Weather Service office in Aberdeen will be in Vivian today to determine if a July 23 hailstorm there produced one, or possibly more, record-setting hailstones.

Vivian-area ranch hand Leslie Scott has what may be the biggest hailstone in U.S. history in his freezer. Today, weather service staffers will transport it to the walk-in freezer at the Coffee Cup Fuel Stop, where they will determine if hailstorm bragging rights will transfer from Aurora, Neb., to the small community along Interstate 90 about 30 miles south of Pierre.

Preliminary measurements taken Saturday by weather service staff showed the hailstone to be 8 inches in diameter and 18.5 inches in circumference. Since no certified scale was available Saturday, weather service officials will make a second trip to Vivian to weigh it.

“We’re trying to be as accurate as we can,” said Mike Fowle, a weather service meteorologist. “We hate to see property damage, and of course we don’t want to see any injuries, but for weather enthusiasts, this is kind of a big deal.”

The current U.S. hailstone of record is one that fell in Aurora, Neb., on June 22, 2003, measuring 7 inches in diameter with a circumference of 18.75 inches.

The July 23 storm included a tornado sighting and damaged nearly every home in Vivian.

Hailstones broke through roofs, leaving fist-size holes in interior ceilings. They smashed through windshields, causing at least five injuries in cars stranded along I-90.

“I’ve got 19 holes in my roof. Three of them go all the way through my ceiling,” said Lisa Patrick, manager of the Coffee Cup in Vivian. “And it wasn’t just my house; it was every house in town.”

Patrick will host the weather service team today, which plans to use the store’s walk-in freezer to keep the hailstones from melting during measurements.

Scott’s hailstone, however, may have competition for bragging rights as America’s biggest piece of ice to fall from the sky.

“There are several people who have contacted us,” Fowle said. “There’s a possibility that there could be more than one record.” Hailstones are measured both by size and weight.

There have been reports of hailstones 10 or more inches in diameter.

The massive chunk of ice in Punk Strom’s deep freeze weighed 1.8 pounds when he put it on the scale at the Vivian post office Monday. It would fill a gallon can, Strom said.

“It melted a lot,” he said. “It laid outside for an hour and a half before I found it,” he said.

“There were millions of softball-sized ones,” Strom said.

Strom said he doesn’t plan to take his hailstone in for measurement, though, since he has a funeral to attend Tuesday. If its 1.8-pound weight were confirmed, it would smash the current U.S. record hailstone weight of 1.65 pounds.

“Besides, I hear Leslie Scott’s got a lot bigger one,” Strom said. “I’ll probably just leave it in the deep freeze and brag about it.”

Scott said his hailstone lost about 3 inches since he was without electricity for several hours after the storm. Weather service staffers will transport the stone from his house to the Coffee Cup.

“They don’t want it to melt any more. It shrunk quite a bit already,” he said. Weather service staffers told him to put it in a sealed plastic bag and to stop opening the freezer door to show it to people.

Scott picked up the hailstone because of its unusual “spider” legs, not because of its size. “If I knew it might be a record, I would have looked for a bigger one. There was lots bigger ones than the one I got,” he said. “My mother seen one as big as a football, she claims.”

The intervening days in local freezers can take a toll on hailstones and might keep the Vivian ones from attaining record-breaking status, Fowle said.

“Stones can deteriorate quickly,” he said. “Even sitting in a freezer, they sublimate, going from a solid to a gas. Just sitting in someone’s freezer, it will shrink over time.”


Contact Mary Garrigan at 394-8424 or




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(8) Comments

  1. Mohr Please
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    Mohr Please - July 28, 2010 2:28 pm
    Using Ramanujan's Approximation along with Newton's Method, the minor diameter of the hail stone would equate to about 3.25", given a circumference and major diameter of 18.5" and 8" respectively. This is only true if assuming that the hail stone is indeed a perfect ellipse, which it is most certainly not. Therefore, I am curious as to how exactly they will measure the stone and on what grounds the comparisons will be valid.

    BTW: Nice burn minuteman regarding the six inches...oh snap.
  2. lissarenee15
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    lissarenee15 - July 27, 2010 8:29 pm
    im just sayn lucky no one was killed
  3. Minuteman
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    Minuteman - July 27, 2010 3:29 pm
    Your right they probably are in the form of an ellipse. If they are not round the reference to softball size would be incorrect. Maybe small football size. But in either case with 8 inch diameters being reported the circumference number seems out of whack. Six inches is a large difference just ask ripoff's wife.
  4. DouglasE
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    DouglasE - July 26, 2010 5:40 pm
    Well that would be close if it was a circle. Since a circle is a form of an ellipse than you have to figure the circumference by using a completely different equation. I would have to figure that the hail stone is an ellipse but not a true circle.
  5. Rush Mountmore
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    Rush Mountmore - July 26, 2010 5:28 pm
    Wait a Minute:

    You seem to consider that all hail stones are perfectly round.
  6. ripoff
    Report Abuse
    ripoff - July 26, 2010 5:00 pm
    Re: Minuteman - That scenario would be correct with a perfect circle. Pretty sure mother nature isn't that perfect. Get over it. What's up with (p)?? It's pi.
  7. Happy in the Hills
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    Happy in the Hills - July 26, 2010 4:58 pm
    Don't know for sure if this is the reason, but hailstones, especially when they get that big, are not round.
  8. Minuteman
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    Minuteman - July 26, 2010 4:33 pm
    In circles the circumference is 3.14 (p) times the Diameter.
    So if the Diameter is 8 the circumference should be 24 inches not 18.5. What is up with that?
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