News Columns & Blogs

A record hailstone falls in South Dakota

For decades, Coffeyville proudly held the distinction of the largest hailstone on record. The stone, which fell in September 1970, was measured at 17.5 inches in circumference and weighed 1.67 pounds.

Then a strong thunderstorm in Nebraska in 2003 dropped a massive hailstone on Aurora, dethroning Coffeyville. That stone was measured at 18.5 inches in circumference and weighed 1.3 pounds.

Now it’s Aurora’s turn to step down. A hail stone that fell last month in South Dakota was measured at 18.5 inches and 1.9 pounds is being hailed as the largest ever recorded.

Keep in mind that every one of these hailstones was likely even larger when they fell, but melted to some degree before being discovered and placed in a refrigerator or freezer.

I can’t help but notice a trend, however: the location of the record-setting hailstone keeps moving north – all the way to South Dakota this year. Is that a coincidence or a trend?

Weather experts were wondering in the late ’80s whether Tornado Alley had become a thing of the past. Then Hesston was nailed on March 13, 1990, signaling an active, violent decade in Tornado Alley.

But the hail stones are likely to prompt more discussion – this time about whether the active tornado zone is shifting much farther north.