WORLDS LARGEST HAIL STONE ! SIZE OF A VOLLEYBALL!
STORMS: 'It was raining volleyballs'
BY KEVIN ABOUREZK / Lincoln Journal Star
AURORA -- As a farmer and a National Weather Service spotter, Dale Obermeier has spent more than 25 years pondering nature's fury.
A 1991 hail storm destroyed his entire corn crop. A tornado nearly took his mother in 1936; she held onto a tree while the twister uprooted trees and buildings around her.
Never had he seen anything like what fell from the sky onto his yard Sunday.
"I looked outside, and it was raining volleyballs," he said.
Shortly before 7 p.m. Sunday, residents of this Hamilton County town, population 4,225, watched in disbelief as hail larger than softballs fell to the ground.
The storm also produced a small tornado about 2 miles west of Aurora that tore the roof from a metal barn and ripped trees from the ground.
In Aurora, hail damaged trees, homes, farm buildings, cars and left small craters in people's yards.
C.J. Hash, general manager of Advantage Chevrolet, said hail the size of softballs struck several cars, causing nearly $50,000 damage.
At least one hail stone was measured at 61/2 inches in diameter and 17.4 inches in circumference. That's 2 inches larger than a softball.
Gene Orth, 57, picked up the stone after it fell in his back yard. Two other stones left holes in the roofs of his garage and home, just north of Obermeier's.
Leaning on a wood deck behind his house Monday, he surveyed the damage.
"I've seen hail the size of baseballs, or maybe bigger, but I've never seen them that big," he said.
The hail stone could be the largest ever recorded in the United States. It's definitely the largest recorded in Nebraska, which fell in Potter in 1928 and measured 5.4 inches wide.
Michael Lewis, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hastings, said he's unsure about the size of the hail stone that holds the U.S. record, which fell in Coffeyville, Kan., in 1970.
At least one source, Lewis said, described it as measuring 5.7 inches in diameter and 17.5 inches in circumference.
Deciding which is bigger could take some time: "We're kind of in a quagmire right now."
Some have even questioned whether the hail stone that fell in Orth's yard is, in fact, the largest that fell in Aurora on Sunday.
A team of storm chasers from Louisiana and Oklahoma said they measured a hail stone that fell in Obermeier's yard at 7 inches in diameter.
Scott Blair of the University of Louisiana-Monroe's atmospheric science program said he thought the stone was probably twice that size before Obermeier found it.
As he took photographs of the misshapen, two-pound stone in Obermeier's basement Monday, Blair expressed his awe at seeing such a large hail stone.
"You probably have in your hands the largest hail stone ever recorded in the United States," he told Obermeier.
The 75-year-old retired Aurora farmer is keeping the stone in his freezer, wrapped in tin foil beside his Cool Whip and bread.
He said he and his wife, Shirley, were in their basement when the hail began falling.
"It just sounded like someone had pushed a stove or refrigerator over on the roof,"he said.