|Golf balls from the sky|
No, those aren't golf balls, they're hailstones. We had the worst hailstorm I have ever experienced the other day. It came upon us suddenly, and it felt and sounded like the sky was falling. It was coming down fast from above and from the sides as the wind swirled and ice pummeled everything. It only lasted about 5 or 6 minutes, but it was enough to freak out the kids and our dog (and Mommy.) My oldest grabbed his video camera and started filming and is already incorporating his footage into a movie.
It looked like it had snowed outside, and some of the ice was so thick that it even remained on the ground the next morning. Our neighborhood looks like a war zone!
|I'll huff, and I'll puff...|
Our house looks like it was the victim of a drive-by shooting. But ours didn't get as many holes in it as some of our neighbors. My garden got beaten down a bit, but it already looks like it will bounce back.
So, of course, we wanted to find out why hail happens. One of my favorite weather books is Eric Sloane's 1949 Weather Book which contains wonderful drawings and factual information about all forms of weather.
There are many books about weather, but this one could be used as a supplementary science text, and it makes weather concepts clear and understandable. I just love the style of Sloan's drawings:
|From Weather Book by Eric Sloane 1949, Dover (2005) unabridged republication|
Through our research, we found out that hail played a role in World History when a hailstorm destroyed so many crops in France in 1788 that it contributed to a food shortage. This compounded civil unrest which led to the French Revolution.
The largest authenticated hailstone occurred in Kansas in 1970 and weighed in somewhere around 1 pound, 11 ounces, but many larger pieces have been reported all around the world, just not "officially."
In the midwest, crops are damaged by hailstones so frequently that many farmers carry hail insurance. Hail can totally destroy crops and kill livestock. Entire herds of sheep and cattle have been killed in hailstorms.
"Ostrish egg" sized hail fell in an 1885 Texas hailstorm. The Chilled Catfish of Concho County sounds like a tall tale but is reported to be true.
Hailstorms raining down critters along with the ice have been reported numerous times -- everything from birds, frogs, water mussels, and worms to a turtle encased in ice.
The Let's-Read-and-Find-Out-Science book, Down Comes the Rain, explains the water cycle and includes a wonderful explanation of how hail forms, and this series of books can usually be found at the library.
|Down Comes the Rain by Franklyn M. Branley (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 1997)|
You can slice a hailstone in half and actually see the layers of ice that formed as it journeyed up and down before falling to earth. We discovered that if you hold a hailstone up against a bright light, you can also see the layers inside.
My youngest was terrified during the hailstorm, but now that he understands what hail is and why it happens, I hope he will feel more secure the next time one rolls in. I think my oldest must be a future storm chaser, though, because he wants to film in HD next time!