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STEVE'S WILD WORLD OF WEATHER...GORILLA HAIL


When I'm wondering about weather folklore and historical events this is the man I go to. With more than 50 years of statistical and observational research, he's the dude! When it comes to lunar cycles, woolly bear caterpillars, insects, bugs, and animals, he tracks them, records them, and establishes ties to weather patterns. He's a knowledgeable and interesting man. His name is Steve Gottschalk by way of Lowden, Iowa. I'm grateful to him for lending his unique perspective to the site. After a long COVID break, Steve's "wild" world of weather can be found regularly right here on TSwails.com. Take it away Steve!


Are Hailstones Getting Larger?


With the "monster hail" that Hondo, Texas received earlier this spring (with a stone 6.4" in diameter and weighing 1.26 lbs.), I was curious to see if the hailstones were increasing in size over recent years. I found that 15 states have set official or unofficial records since 2000.


On Sept. 23, 2010, Wichita, Kansas had a 7.75" diameter stone. However, the current record holder is Vivian, South Dakota which recorded an 8" diameter stone that weighed 1.96 lbs. that fell on July 23, 2010. What's ironic is the Vivian stone originally was 11" in diameter but lost part of it's size while in the freezer due to a three day power outage.

An image of the gorilla hail that fell near near Hondo, Texas this year. Unbelievable!


I found an old New York Times article from December of 1892 about a hailstorm in Gay Hill, Texas that dropped 3" to 6" diameter hailstones with one stone that was 8" across and weighed 4 lbs. It penetrated the ground to a depth of 3" in some soft places.


I think Iowa's largest hailstone fell on Dubuque on June 16, 1882. Here is an account of the storm that I believe you will find interesting? For 13 minutes, starting at 2:54 p.m., the largest and most destructive hailstones fell that were ever seen at this place. The stones measured from 1" to 17" in circumference, the largest weighed 1 lb. 12 ounces. Washington Park was covered with lemon-sized hail with large basket-fulls gathered in a few minutes. There were diverse and peculiar shapes, some covered with knobs and icicles 1/2" in length. Others were covered by rings of various colored ice with grass and gravel imbedded in them. The foreman of the Novelty Iron Works states that 2 large samples he melted had tiny living frogs inside of them.


There were a number of persons who were severely cut and bruised by the hail. One florist lost 2,387 panes of glass. Hundreds of windows with a south and west exposure were broken including 20 of heavy French plate glass. The damage was estimated at $5,000. The railroad men report the the hail fell at 2:00 p.m. at McGregor 40 miles to the N.W. No hail fell on the east side of the Mississippi River or at Julien, 2 miles west of town.


I did find another report of very large hail. On the evening of Sept. 27, 1959, a storm moved across Scott county producing 7" hail. Most of the damage was in Davenport to greenhouses were 3,000 windows were broken resulting in $5,000 damage. There were no injuries.

Home severely damaged by hail in Casey, Iowa June 2014


The Summer 100 Years Ago Was Hot And Dry

The summer of 1921 was hot and dry. The temperatures for the month of June averaged some 6 degrees above normal. There were 16 days with maximum temperatures of 90 or higher. The rainfall was well below normal. The extreme heat and dry conditions greatly reduced the quality and yields of oats and spring wheat. The potatoes suffered and failed to produce tubers. Many horses died from overheating.


During July the heat and drought continued. Some areas had less than 20% of their rainfall. The temperatures averaged 6 degrees above normal. There were at least 22 days with readings in the 90's and 3 days with readings of 100 or higher. The potato crop was seriously damaged, gardens were ruined, the pastures turned brown and the berry crop was a failure.


August temperatures were cooler until the last week. The average temperature was still above normal. There were 10 days with readings in the 90's. The month was wetter but the potato crop didn't recover. However the corn crop recovered some. For the 3 month period there were 48 days with readings in the 90's and 3 days with readings with 100 or higher.

Are Our Junes Warmer?

Going through my records I have found that since 2010 our June's have been averaging 1.8 degrees above normal. Another curious thing I discovered is that when you have 2 or more 90 degree days during the first 5 days of the month, there is a 67% chance that the month will be warmer than normal. This year I had 3 days of 90's from the 1st-5th.

Now That Was A Wet June!

During June of 1882, Waukee, located west of Des Moines, had an incredible 18.95" of rain during the month. That's more rain than the months of May, June, July and August altogether.


Well,, that's all for this addition. On the "wild" side of weather, I'm Steve Gottschalk.

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