AURORA — It's official. The largest hailstone ever recovered in the United States fell nearly six weeks ago in Aurora, breaking a 33-year-old record.
Federal weather experts announced Friday that the record hailstone fell June 22 when a violent storm dropped hail the size of small cantaloupes through roofs in the Nebraska farm town.
The record stone measured in at 7 inches in diameter, with a circumference of 18.75 inches, said Jay Lawrimore with the National Climatic Data Center in Ashville, N.C.
"This one is going into the books, and we are keepers of the books," said Lawrimore, who leads the national weather extremes committee for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The stone was measured by a crew from the National Weather Service forecast office in Hastings, and it was verified by a team of weather forecasters.
The old record for the largest hailstone had been a diameter of 5.7 inches, a circumference of 17.5 inches, and was found in Coffeyville, Kan., on Sept. 3, 1970.
Edgerton Explorit Center's outreach coordinator, Casey Brisk, said two casts that were made of the record-breaking stone have been on display at the center's front entrance this past week. She said no signage has been made yet for the casts, which are the center's to keep. However, after hearing the news Friday that the stone set a new national record, she said something will definitely be done.
"That was just an amazing measurement for right here in Aurora," she said, "so I thought it probably would (be a new national record)."
While the largest, the Aurora hailstone didn't break the record for being the heaviest, however.
"It was hard for us to get an accurate weight for this stone because a chunk of it hit the gutter of a house and 40 percent of it was lost," Lawrimore said. "Also, we think some of the stone's mass might have melted before it was preserved in freezing conditions."
The Coffeyville hailstone remains the heaviest on the books. It weighed 1.7 pounds.
The Aurora hailstone was quickly recovered by Aric and Tamara Brophy soon after it hit their home on the north edge of town, said Steve Kizner, one of the meteorologists from Hastings who measured the stone.
The couple soon put the hailstone in a plastic bag and in their freezer, Kizner said.
"Were it not for their quick thinking, we would have not known it existed," Lawrimore said.
Kizner said the stone also was probably larger when it fell, but "there was probably some melting before even we got there."
The hailstone wasn't measured by Kizner and the other weather service officials until four days after it fell.
Kizner was personally familiar with the Coffeyville stone. He grew up in Kansas and had worked at the weather service's Topeka, Kan., office, where there is a cast mold of the stone.
"I kind of grew up with that stone. I didn't think we'd see something larger than that," said the 18-year meteorologist.
Lawrimore said the reality is larger stones have likely fallen, but were never found.
"Stones often fall where people aren't or melt before they are found," Lawrimore said. "This is not necessarily the largest that's ever fallen, but it is the largest recovered."
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