There’s large hail and then there’s massive hail. In the case of a hailstone that fell near Hondo on April 28th, not only was it huge, it may have also been record-setting. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety announced this week that a 3-D scan of the hailstone revealed it had a diameter of 6.4″.
”That stone is the largest one we ever scanned,” explained Dr. Tanya Brown-Giammanco, Managing Director of Research for the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.
To put that into perspective, a softball is just under 4 inches in diameter. A closer comparison would be a honeydew melon.
”It was found by a homeowner in Hondo, Texas and she saved it in her freezer until the weather service and our team could get out there to take a look at it,” said Brown-Giammanco.
The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, or IBHS, is a non-profit, funded by insurance companies, tasked with finding ways to reduce property damage from storms. Since 2012, IBHS has conducted field studies with the hopes to better understand the density of hail.
”We devised the idea of using a laser scanner to get that true three-dimensional volume, and that helped us understand the relationship between the density characteristic and other things,” said Brown-Giammanco.
With help from the National Weather Service in New Braunfels, IBHS dispatched their team this week to get a 3-D image of the record hailstone.
“We have a portable, handheld 3-D scanner,” said Brown-Giammanco. “Our operator holds it in one hand and watches what’s happening on the screen and can rotate the stone on a turntable and be able to scan all the different surfaces.”
The process gives the team a good idea of the volume of the stone, which can help them determine a more accurate density. It will also help them to understand how different shapes of hailstone affect damage to property.
“We often get asked how we think jagged or irregularly shaped hailstones might affect damage on buildings and we don’t quite yet know the answer to that,” explained Brown-Giammanco. “Everything we do in our laboratory is shooting spherical hailstones, but there may be a point in the near future where we could actually print hailstones or print molds of the shapes we’ve gathered in the field and try to answer those kind of questions.”
This hailstone likely will be an official state record. Unofficially, a report of a hailstone with a diameter between 6 and 8 inches was reported in Gay Hill in 1892, according to weather historian Christopher Burt. A storm chaser also reported a 6-inch diameter hailstone in the Texas panhandle in 2010. As far as national records go, a stone in Vivian, South Dakota on July 23, 2010, was recorded with a diameter of a whopping 8 inches!
Regardless, when hail becomes the size of a golf ball, it can begin to do damage to property. A hailstone with a diameter of more than 6 inches will do incredible damage and is dangerous. Hailstones this large have been known to puncture roofs and fall into homes.