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Types of hail damage

What’s the largest hailstone to fall in our area? Also see photos and video of hail damage from across the country.
How hails forms and the largest hail ever recorded in our area
Published: Mar. 15, 2021 at 7:36 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 3, 2022 at 6:03 PM EST
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You may not think of large hail when severe thunderstorms are in the forecast, but on occasion our area will get large hail falling from within severe thunderstorms.

Hail is part of the criteria in severe thunderstorms at 1″ or larger. Typical for our region, hail size is less than 1.50″. Of course, hail can come down in any thunderstorm, not just severe ones. Pea-size hail is a very common size of hail we see which is only 0.25″ in diameter. On some rare occasions, if a storm updraft is strong enough, we can see large hail.

Conditions that would lead to a severe thunderstorm warning
Conditions that would lead to a severe thunderstorm warning(NWS)

The largest hailstone in the United States fell in South Dakota in 2010. This beat out the previous record of a 7″ diameter hailstone from Aurora, Nebraska in 2003.

Small hail, around 1″ or smaller can fall at speeds of 9-25mph.

Larger hail, hail about 2-4″ in diameter can fall at speeds of 40-70mph! That can hurt- and that’s only one reason why hail can be so dangerous. Hail can hurt you, can dent your vehicle, crack windshields, damage siding and roofs. If hail falls to where it covers the ground, that can lead to roads being icy and slick, even in the middle of summer. Hail can also lead to large agriculture losses.

Locally, the largest hail stone was 2.75″! That’s the size of a baseball. That large hail fell on two separate occasions in our area.

Largest hail recorded in our area
Largest hail recorded in our area(WHSV)

If you ever look through old archive local newspapers, there are several instances of past large hailstorms. Here’s a clipping from one in Augusta county from June 24, 1897:

Report of a hailstorm in Augusta county
Report of a hailstorm in Augusta county(The Staunton Spectator)

Largest hailstone by state

Not every state has a hailstone record but here are a few from our region:

STATEDATEHAIL SIZELOCATION
VirginiaApril 27, 20114.50″Saltville
West Virginia19804.50″Welch, WV (McDowell County)
Washington, D.C.May 26, 19234.15″Washington, D.C.
MarylandJune 22, 19154.00″Annapolis

How does hail form?

So how does hail form? The stronger the updraft speed in the storm, the larger the hailstone can grow. Frozen water droplets are suspended high in the storm. As they start to fall, if the updraft speed is strong enough it will send the hail stone back up, more water freezes around it. It’s a constant up and down motion of the hail being forced back into the top of the storm by the updraft, the hailstone growing and trying to fall.

One the stone is big enough to where the weight overcomes the updraft, the hailstone will fall to the ground. Because of the constant re-icing of the hailstone as it’s suspended in a storm, you can often see layers of ice in a hail stone. Hail can be jagged and irregular in shape.

Hail formation
Hail formation(WHSV)

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