- Hail storms cost the United States billions of dollars in damages each year.
- Hail is formed by rain droplets being swept up into the atmosphere in the middle of a storm, then dropped back down when they get too heavy.
- The states that are hit most intensely by hail are in the middle of the country, including Colorado, Texas, Nebraska, and Wyoming.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
While your normal interaction with hail may be seeing unbelievable photos of it next to baseballs for comparison, hail storms can cost billions of dollars in damages every year.
The worst year on record for hail damage in the US, 2017, cost $22 billion in damages.
Hail forms when air from a storm brings rain droplets up into extremely chilly areas of the atmosphere. These droplets freeze, and the ice chunks grow bigger and heavier as more water droplets freeze on their surface. When the hail stones finally get heavy enough, they fall to the ground, or onto the hood of your car if you’re unlucky.
The majority of hail storms occur along “hail alley” in the US – Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming. Texas also gets its fair share of hail disasters. The Insurance Information Institute reported the state saw 508 different hail events in 2018, the most of any state that year.
Luckily, hail season is winding down for some of the hotspots across the country. Here’s a look back at some of the costliest and most interesting hailstorms to hit the United States over the past few decades.
May 8, 1981: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Alabama
Dallas and the surrounding area were hit by a thunderstorm with grapefruit-sized hailstones and wind up to 100 mph.
NOAA said Texas was the heaviest hit, but the thunderstorms made their way through multiple Midwestern and southern states, including Oklahoma, Kansas, and Alabama. In 2019 dollars, NOAA estimates this storm cost around $1.2 billion in damage.
August 1, 1985: Cheyenne, Wyoming
A storm swept Cheyenne, leading to flash flooding and fast-rising water up to 8 inches in parts of the city in about three hours. Piles of hail 2 inches in diameter accumulated in nearly foot-tall piles.
The storm caused 12 fatalities and 70 injuries, NOAA said, as well as damage costs exceeding $61 million.
July 11, 1990: Colorado
The supercell storm in Denver on July 11, 1990, was at the time the costliest hailstorm in US history, as it fed off of the moist winds from the east and cooler air in the higher parts of the atmosphere, according to the Colorado Weather Almanac.
CBS reported that hailstones the size of golf balls to baseballs dropped along a 5-10 mile width, causing significant damage to thousands of homes.
Losses reached up to $600 million in 1990 dollars, or around $1.2 billion in 2019 dollars.
May 5, 1995: Texas
The Mayfest Hailstorm hit Tarrant and Dallas Counties in Texas in the late afternoon of May 5, 1995, causing an estimated $2 billion in damage.
According to NOAA’s report, 10,000 people got caught in the storm at the Mayfest Festival on the bank of the Trinity River. Hail the size of softballs caused over 400 injuries, 60 of which required hospitalization.
Increased rainfall led to flash flooding, as portions of Dallas County saw over 2 inches of rain in less than 15 minutes, according to NOAA.
April 10, 2001: Missouri and southwest Illinois
The Tri-state Hailstorm hit Missouri and southwest Illinois on April 10, 2001, causing $1 billion or more in damage. The long-lived high precipitation supercell thunderstorm produced hail for a swath 245 miles long and 22 miles wide as it traveled southeast from Kansas City to St. Louis.
The hail storm damaged 120,000 homes, 65,000 cars, and 8,000 commercial properties, NOAA reported. In one case, every vehicle outside a Ford Motor Company assembly plant in Hazelwood was damaged, ranging in the hundreds.
Hailstones varied in size, from around one to 3 inches in diameter. At the time, the storm was the ninth costliest weather catastrophe in the country since 1949.
June 22, 2003: Aurora, Nebraska
On the evening of June 22, 2003, storms produced tornadoes, flooding, and giant hail across Nebraska. What’s notable about this storm isn’t necessarily the damage – but the volleyball-sized stones doing it.
The largest hail stone found on June 23 was a whopping 6.5 inches in diameter, 17.375 inches in circumference, and weighed 1.33 pounds, according to NOAA. An even larger hailstone was measured and verified on June 25 with measurements of 7 inches in diameter and 18.75 inches in circumference.
The previous record-holder was found in 1970 with a diameter of 5.7 inches and a circumference of 17.5 inches.
July 20, 2009: Colorado
Hail and wind storms pushed two weak tornadoes together in Denver in July 2009, causing around $350 million in insured damage in 2009 dollars.
This storm technically caused more damage financially than a previous storm that hit Denver in 1990, but when adjusted to today’s dollars, the July storm still comes out on top.
July 23, 2010: Vivian, S.D.
A massive hailstone that landed in South Dakota on June 23, 2010 beat out the previous record for weight and diameter at a giant 8.0 inches in diameter, 18.625 inches in circumference, and 1.9375 pounds in weight.
The giant stone was found in Vivian, which had been hit especially hard by large hail, winds up to 80 mph, and even a brief tornado, according to the NOAA report. The agency also said this stone wasn’t the only big one – many other stones with diameters above six inches were spotted after the storm.
October 5, 2010: Arizona
Multiple supercell thunderstorms developed across central Arizona, creating major hail and causing damages of up to $4.5 billion in today’s dollars.
Over 100 buildings were damaged or destroyed by tornadoes, and thousands of cars and buildings were damaged by large hailstones across the Phoenix area.
April 28, 2012: St. Louis, Missouri
Two different supercell thunderstorms hit the metropolitan area of St. Louis on the same day, dropping hailstones from the size of golf balls to baseballs.
NOAA reported that at least one person was injured directly because of hail – a man broke his hand after being hit by a very large hailstone. A tent collapsed on a crowd at a sports bar, killing one person and injuring about 100.
March 23-24, 2016: Northern Texas
Another billion-dollar hailstorm hit the North Texas region in 2016. The hailstorm cost Plano around $700 million in insurance losses, making it one of the 15 most expensive storms since 1950 at that time.
Hail up to 2.8 inches in diameter fell in the region, and melting hail accumulating in grassy areas created a fog that made it hard for drivers to see their surroundings.
Plano resident Debbie Boyd told NBC that the hail made sounds like boulders being thrown at buildings, or a football team running around on the rooftop.
April 12, 2016: Texas
The storm was especially destructive in the city of Wylie, where over 80% of homes were impacted. Luckily, only a few injuries were reported.
Hailstones reached nearly 4.5 inches across and totaled many of the 136,000 vehicles damaged in the storm.
May 8, 2017: Colorado
The most expensive catastrophe to take place in the state, according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, hit Denver in May 2017 with massive hailstones leading to $1.4 billion in insured losses.
The Denver Post called this storm the costliest hailstorm ever to hit Colorado, surpassing the cost of massive storms that took place in 1990 and 2007.
June 11, 2017: Minnesota
In June 2017, huge amounts of hail caused around $2.5 billion in damages in Minnesota, according to NOAA. The state’s Department of National Resources noted hail the size of hens-eggs in Murray County and golf-ball-sized hail in Anoka County.
The Twin Cities were hit with dime-sized hail that formed piles along the roads, the Minnesota Department of National Resources reported. NOAA compared the damage to that of a previous storm that hit Minnesota in May 1998 that cost the state about $2.6 billion in today’s dollars.
June 6, 2018: Texas
Giant hail impacted the densely populated zones of Dallas and Fort Worth early that June, costing about $1.3 billion according to NOAA.
A spokesman for the City of Arlington, located in between Dallas and Fort Worth, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that no significant damage had been done. Despite this, social media blew up with posts of the hail and damaged cars.
The largest hailstones were spotted in Carrollton and Coppell, whereas some nearby areas escaped the worst of the storm with only reports of nickel-sized hail, according to the Star-Telegram.
June 19, 2018: Colorado
NOAA said the storm that hit northern Colorado from Denver and Boulder to Fort Collins cost around $2.3 billion. The Denver Post reported that areas around the town Superior were hit with hail the size of teacups – around 3 inches in diameter.
Patch reported that Colorado was the worst state for hail damage in 2018, outranking other big hail states like Texas, Illinois, Minnesota, and Nebraska.
August 6, 2018: Colorado and Nebraska
Another hailstorm hit Colorado last year took place on August 6, 2018. Most notably, the hailstorm terrified visitors to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, injuring at least eight people and killing three animals.
More hail wreaked havoc on parts of western Nebraska around the same time, breaking most of the north-facing windows in Oshkosh and stripping crops of their leaves.
March 24, 2019: Northern Texas
NOAA reported that the storm caused $1.4 billion in damage, and Oklahoma took some hits as well from the same weather system.
August 13, 2019: Colorado
On August 13, Colorado was hit by multiple reports of tornadoes and giant hail – including one stone that broke the record for the largest in the state.
CBS reported that the massive hailstone, with a diameter of nearly 5 inches, beat out the previous state record of 4.5 inches.