How does hail form? It starts out as falling rain, several miles up in the clouds. But an updraft(an upward blowing wind) holds it aloft, moving it upward instead of allowing it to fall. As it goes up, it freezes because of the colder temperatures aloft. Drops of supercooled water(agitated liquid water colder than 32 degrees) hit these pellets of ice and freeze on. The mass of ice may fall and then be lifted again several times, each time getting larger and larger as more water freezes onto it. When the hail is so big that the updraft can't hold it aloft any more, it falls to the ground. Other times, the updraft may weaken, or shift its position and the hail falls because of that. The stronger the updraft is, the larger the hail can be. It takes an updraft of 55+ mph to create hail the size of a golf ball, and an updraft of 90+ or more mph to create hail the size of a baseball.

It usually takes hail the size of a hen’s egg to dent a car, but hail the size of baseballs can kill animals who can't find a sheltering tree that breaks the fall of the fall.

When cut in half, hail may display layers of clear ice separated by layers of cloudy ice, similar to tree rings seen on cut trees. It may be round, but can also be flattened, with knobs and bumps.

How big does it get? THIS is how big! Here are some hail reports, straight from National Weather Service offices:

0305 PM                              ID    .25 INCH HAIL
04/23/98   GEM                             PEA SIZE HAIL REPORTED                                                            OVER SOUTHEAST PORTION OF

0648 PM    GADSDEN                   AL    .5 INCH HAIL
04/14/98   ETOWAH                          MARBLE SIZED HAIL COVERING
                                           THE GROUND JUST NORTH OF

0650 PM                              AL    .75 INCH HAIL
04/14/98   ETOWAH                          DIME SIZED HAIL COVERING
                                           THE GROUND NEAR SOUTHSIDE
                                           JUST TO THE SOUTH OF
                                           INTERSTATE 59

0848 PM    MORLEY                    MO    DIME SIZE HAIL
04/13/98   SCOTT

0856 PM    MOUND CITY                IL    NICKEL SIZE HAIL
04/13/98   PULASKI

530 PM     SHELTON                    WA   HAIL
04/14/98   MASON                           MASON 22H
                                           THUNDERSTORM, WITH GRAPE
                                           SIZED HAIL

1044 PM    3 SE VINTON               IA    0.75 INCH HAIL
04/15/98   BENTON                          PEA TO PENNY SIZE HAIL

0832 PM    BEAGLE                    KS    .75 INCH HAIL
04/14/98   MIAMI                           DIME SIZE HAIL IN
                                           SOUTHERN PART OF COUNTY

0848 PM    2 NW COLCHESTER           IL    0.80 INCH HAIL
04/15/98   MCDONOUGH                       DIME TO NICKEL SIZE HAIL

0302 PM    BOISE                     ID    .88 INCH HAIL
04/23/98   ADA                             NICKEL HAIL REPORTED AT
                                           INTERSECTION OF ORCHARD
                                           AND OVERLAND

0550 PM    CROFTON                   MD    .88 INCH HAIL
04/17/98   ANNE ARUNDEL                    HAIL SLIGHTLY LARGER THAN
                                           A QUARTER REPORTED BY
                                           OFF-DUTY NWS EMPLOYEE

0900 AM    HAZEN                     AR    1 INCH HAIL
04/16/98   PRAIRIE                         MARBLE TO QUARTER SIZE

0250 PM    REAGAN                    TN    1 INCH HAIL
04/16/98   HENDERSON                       QUARTER SIZE HAIL REPORTED
                                           BY HENDERSON COUNTY SHERIFF

0835 PM    MACYVILLE                 KS   1.5 INCH HAIL
05/11/98   CLOUD                          WALNUT SIZE HAIL FELL 3
                                          MILES NORTHWEST OF

0253 PM    SELMER                    TN    1.25 INCH HAIL
04/16/98   MCNAIRY                         HALF DOLLAR SIZE HAIL REPORTED
                                           BY SPOTTER

0410 PM    APPLETON                  AL    1.5 INCH HAIL
04/22/98   ESCAMBIA                        PING PONG SIZE HAIL

100 AM     MADRAS                    GA   1.50
5/8/98     COWETA                         PUBLIC REPORTS HAIL THE SIZE
                                          OF LEMONS DAMAGED CAR

0255 PM    WHITE BLUFF               TN    1.75 INCH HAIL
04/16/98   DICKSON                         SPOTTER REPORTED 8 MILES
                                           NORTH OF WHITE BLUFF THAT
                                           GOLF BALL SIZE HAIL WAS
                                           COVERING THE GROUND TO A
                                           DEPTH OF 2 1/2 INCHES

0225 PM    MIDDLETON                 TN    1.75 INCH HAIL
04/16/98   HARDEMAN                        GOLFBALL SIZE HAIL
                                           REPORTED BY SPOTTER

0709 PM    3 S STRATFORD             OK    1.875 INCH HAIL
04/14/98   GARVIN                          REPORTED BY OFF DUTY
                                           SPC EMPLOYEE

0428 PM    1 W 1 N OBERLIN           KS    2 INCH HAIL
04/14/98   DECATUR

05/12/98   LA SALLE                  IL    BILLIARD BALL SIZE HAIL

0635 PM    PURVIS                    MS    2.5 INCH HAIL
04/17/98   LAMAR                           COVERED THE
                                           GROUND...REPORTED BY
                                           SHERIFFS OFFICE

0430 PM    VESTAVIA HILLS            AL    2.5 INCH HAIL
04/14/98   JEFFERSON                       TENNIS BALL SIZED HAIL
                                           MEASURED BY AN OFF DUTY
                                           NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
0425 PM    LEWISBURG                 KY    2.75 INCH HAIL
04/16/98   LOGAN                           BASEBALL SIZE HAIL BETWEEN
                                           LEWISBURG AND EPLEY

0907 PM    NEAR POTWIN               KS    4.00 INCH HAIL
04/14/98   BUTLER                          2 REPORTS OF GRAPEFRUIT
                                           SIZE HAIL

0532 PM    CARNES                    MS    4.5 INCH HAIL
04/17/98   FORREST                         NUMEROUS REPORTS OF
                                           GOLFBALL TO SOFTBALL SIZED
                                           HAIL BETWEEN CARNES AND
                                           SUNRISE...REPORTED BY
                                           HATTIESBURG EOC
0646 PM    LITTLETON                 IL   4.5 INCH HAIL
05/12/98   SCHUYLER                       COVERING THE GROUND

Here are some video stills I took of hail we have seen:

The road we were on in west Texas was covered with hail this size--about the size and color of pearl onions.

This hail fell in Shamrock, Texas, and broke all 5 windows on the north side of this woman's house.

This is a close up of the hail from the June, 1998, Shamrock, Texas storm.

And in Clovis, New Mexico:

Bumps and knobs on hail

Smooth, round, flat hail

And here are photos of hail taken by other people: Gene Moore’s grapefruit hail


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