Pineapple-Sized Hail Stone Falls in Texas—and It Might Set a New State Record

Veteran storm chaser Val Castor spotted the behemoth ice chunk in a ditch near Vigo Park in the Texas panhandle

a large hail stone on the ground next to a monster energy can; it is taller than the can
Val Castor, a veteran storm chaser for KWTV in Oklahoma City, saw the huge chunk of ice in a ditch on the side of the road. Val Castor / KWTV via AP

Val Castor was driving through a thunderstorm in northern Texas last week, when baseball-sized hail stones began falling on his car. One even cracked his windshield.

But Castor, a veteran storm tracker who works for KWTV in Oklahoma City, wasn’t deterred by the damage and kept driving. And it turned out to be lucky that he did: Not long after, he spotted a gigantic hail stone in a ditch—so large that he could see it from around 300 feet away.

When he got out of his car to take a closer look, Castor almost couldn’t believe his eyes. The massive chunk of ice was about the size of a pineapple—and it will likely set a new state record.

“That’s the biggest hail I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been chasing storms for more than 30 years,” Castor tells the Associated Press (AP).

To document his find, Castor snapped photos of the stone next to a Monster Energy drink can and a work glove. He sent the images to the National Weather Service, which shared them with the Insurance Institute of Business and Home Safety, a research group focused on improving infrastructure resiliency against wind and hail. The institute determined the icy chunk was just over 7 inches long.

Castor found the stone near Vigo Park, a small town southeast of Amarillo in the Texas panhandle. It resulted from a supercell thunderstorm that formed near Happy, Texas, on the evening of June 2.

“The cyclonic rotation strengthened and lowered as the storm began its track east-southeast towards the Vigo Park community,” the National Weather Service says in a statement. “The extreme lift with the storm’s updraft was able to generate giant hail in the vicinity of Vigo Park. In addition, the storm produced a tornado, which traveled over open country.”

It will take a few months for officials to determine whether the hail stone truly set a new state record in Texas. If its size is confirmed, it would take the crown from the 6.4-inch-long hail stone found in 2021 near Hondo, Texas. Texas state climatologist John Nielsen Gammon, along with other researchers, will make the record official by verifying the measurements and conducting additional research on the storm.

In the United States more broadly, the heaviest hail stone ever found weighed 1.9 pounds and had a diameter of 8 inches. It fell in July 2010 in Vivian, South Dakota. The Guinness World Record holder for the heaviest hail stone is a 2.2-pound specimen that fell in Bangladesh in 1986.

The science behind hail

Hail is a potentially dangerous type of precipitation that develops under specific weather conditions, typically during thunderstorms. Hail forms when raindrops get carried upward into very cold parts of the atmosphere and become frozen, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). As more water droplets freeze onto their icy surfaces, the hail stones grow.

Raindrops get carried aloft by updrafts, currents of warm surface air that rise because they’re less dense than cooler air. At the same time, cooler air descends to the surface, because it’s denser than warm air—this is known as a downdraft. Updrafts and downdrafts are common during thunderstorms. And certain conditions can make them stronger.

“If it’s very humid, that’s like the gasoline you need for these updrafts,” Victor Gensini, a meteorologist at Northern Illinois University, told the Washington Post’s Scott Dance earlier this month. During the storm that produced the pineapple-sized hail stone, updrafts might have been moving at 110 miles per hour.

Eventually, hail stones fall to the surface when the updrafts can no longer support their weight. They might fall when the updraft gets weaker or when the ice simply becomes too heavy.

Northern Texas has already seen impressive hail this year. In late May, hail stones around Lubbock, Texas, were so large that the National Weather Service gave them a new description: “DVD-sized.”

Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming typically experience the highest number of hailstorms in the country. Meteorologists have even coined a nickname for the area where these three states converge: “hail alley,” which receives seven to nine days of hail per year on average. Worldwide, northern Italy, India, Russia and China also often experience damaging hailstorms.

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