Just For The Hail of It
June 16, 2021
I was talking with someone about the weather recently on a day ending with “Y”, which means such conversation is a daily occurrence for me. The person noted I’d been in the weather business 42 years now. During that time I’ve seen many unusual things and had reached a point where I thought I’d seen everything. That changed on Sunday when the Cheyenne National Weather Service office put out a bulletin indicating there was a chance of “lime-size” hail.
People have struggled to describe the size of hailstones for thousands of years. There are 28 Bible verses that mention hail, and most tell of God using it to punish the wicked. In Revelation 16:21 we read of apocalyptic hailstones each weighing “about 100 pounds” as part of the Great Tribulation. I’m not sure what the diameter of a 100 lb. hailstone would be, but the largest one ever recovered in the U.S. was in Vivian, South Dakota, on July 23, 2010.
That hailstone was 8 inches across and weighed 1.94 lbs. Aurora, Nebraska, holds our state’s record with a 7 inch hailstone weighing 1.3 lbs. that fell on June 22, 2003. As to a world record, there is some evidence to suggest a 9.3 inch hailstone fell on Villa Carlos Paz, Argentina, in 2018 but I haven’t seen official confirmation of that report. Large hail inspires a variety of comparisons to everyday items to describe how big it is.
I’ve heard of hail described as pea-size, marble-size, dime-size, nickel-size, quarter-size, half-dollar size, ping pong ball-size, golf ball-size, tennis ball-size, baseball-size, softball-size, egg-size and hen egg-size (as opposed to duck egg, robin egg, or eggs laid by other birds). And one of the most unusual reports I got while working as a TV weatherman in Minneapolis was from someone reporting “teacup-size” hail. After that I thought I was done with any new hailstone descriptions.
Then came the NWS “lime-size” descriptor for 2” hailstones. My concern is that we’ve now opened the door for a veritable fruit salad of hailstone descriptions. If we officially have limes represented, why not cherries, grapes, crabapples, kiwi fruit, apples, oranges, grapefruit, or the dreaded pineapple-size hail? If we’re going to use citrus, I’d think more people are familiar with lemons than limes. And in this age of inclusivity, we ought to admit vegetables into our descriptor list as well. Peas are already there as a hailstone descriptor, so why not add avocados, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, lettuce and the feared pumpkin-size hail?
Alas, I’m being difficult. People have, and always will, compare hailstones to something they’re familiar with, and that’s just fine. We meteorologists can figure out the produce-to-hailstone conversion using our weather model supercomputers. But if you really want to be nice to us weather folks and save us time, just take a picture of the hailstone next to a ruler and send it in because science demands measurement in inches or centimeters anyway.
NOTE: My column won’t appear in the next two editions of the Sun Telegraph as I’m taking a needed break. I’ll be back in the paper in July.