Although it can grow to the size of golf-balls, sometimes hail falls in gigantic
proportions. In 1970, a storm over Coffeyville, Kansas, (USA) launched a stone measuring
more than seventeen inches in circumference. Weighing over a pound and a half, it was
the biggest stone ever recorded by the U.S. National Weather Service. However, in 1882,
a boulder-size hailstone weighing 80 pounds landed near Salina, Kansas. That one was
packed in sawdust and taken to town to put on display.
Another claim from 19th century India reports at least four separate times when ice
weighing several hundred pounds fell to earth. One was the size of an elephant, and
despite hot weather, took three days to melt.
More recently, a 14-pound sheet of ice landed on an unfortunate sheep in Exmoor,
England, killing the creature. Another similar chunk weighing between 30 and 50 pounds
collided with the third floor of a Riverdale, California (USA) office in 1972. Still
another giant piece landed in Wuxi, China, in 1983.
Scientists have different explanations for these giant hailstones. More recent
occurrences are attributed to the buildup and break-up of ice on airplanes. However, an
atmospheric physicist states that only two out of thirty icefalls in the 1950s were
caused by flights. In the 19th century, when planes didnt exist, it is thought that the
chunks formed when hailstones fuse with one another in the clouds, and then dropped
because of their immense weight.