May 21, 1998 transcript #: 234-4
Subject(s): hailstones, ice, deaths
Title: ALL HAIL BREAKS LOOSE
A snowball tossed by a friend is one thing, but a hailstone hurled by a storm is another thing altogether. Hi Im Dave Thurlow and this is The Weather Notebook. The chunks of falling ice from the sky we call hail or hailstones, can maim and kill.
The most horrific hailstorm ever occurred more than a century ago, on April 30, 1888, not on North Americas Great Plains, but in Northern India. Some people there were actually killed directly by the impact of the enormous half-pound stones falling at sixty miles per hour. Many more were stunned by smaller stones, then buried under mounds of hail, where they died from exposure and suffocation. 246 people were killed. Another storm in India, in 1932, killed more than 200 people and injured thousands.
In the U.S., its rare for a human to be killed by hail. However, it does happen. For example a three-month-old in Fort Collins, Colorado, died in 1979 from a skull fracture caused by hailstones as big as grapefruit. Americans have had the luxury of being are able to find solid shelter during a hailstorm, but animals arent always so lucky. Wild animals, especially birds dont have much of a chance when caught in the open; as many as 36,000 ducks have been killed in a single hailstorm.
Livestock are sometimes killed by intense hailstorms, but have learned to live with hail as just another element in the landscape. I once watched two horses in an open field deal with a Colorado hailstorm by standing side by side, heads down, and slowly tuning 180 degrees as the hailstorm passed, keeping their solid rumps into the wind, toward the driving hailstones. It had to hurt but they spent most of the time grazing as if nothing was happening. The Weather Notebook is underwritten by Subaru with major support provided by the National Science Foundation.