Hail may seem like a minor annoyance, but is a potentially dangerous form of participation that occurs frequently with thunderstorms. It forms when when updrafts of air transport water droplets high enough that they freeze. Hailstones fall to the ground once they become too heavy for the updrafts to hold them aloft. Some fall as quickly as 90 mph. Most hailstones are small balls of ice smaller than a dime that at worst annoy you, but some are large enough to cause significant damage. Certain areas are more prone to hail because of their location and weather patterns, and some places have even seen mass casualties.
India, like China, also has a hail-friendly climate. The country is hit with storms that cause frequent property damage and injuries to people and livestock due to hailstorms. The most damaging storm hit India on April 30, 1988. The death toll reached 246 people, plus 1,600 livestock fatalities in that hailstorm alone. Although a storm of that intensity has not happened in India since, hailstones are a common occurrence there, and another devastating storm could be just the corner.
4. Southern China
China is another frequent victim of hailstones, with Southern China seeing the most abuse. The warm, moist climate creates an attractive environment for thunderstorms and hail. At least 12 people were killed and another 270 were injured in a major hailstorm in southern China in March 2013. This is just the most recent tragedy in a hail-prone country.
Australia, like the U.S., sees frequent hailstorms, enough to cause significant damage Down Under. Around half a million tons of hail fell from the sky during a single hailstorm that hit Australia on April 14, 1999. This storm caused around $1.5 billion in damage. A major hailstorm hit Brisbane in May 2005, and another one hit Canberra in February 2007. Australia has a history of both small and large hailstorms, though the 1999 hailstorm remains one of the largest recorded storms in the world.
2. The Great Plains
The United States gets a large share of hail each year that contributes $1 billion of damage. Every state in the U.S. gets some hailstones, but the spot where Wyoming, Nebraska, and Colorado meet gets so much of the hard, white stuff that it is known as “hail alley.” This area gets around seven to nine days of hail annually. Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma also see frequent hailstorms. Overall, the Great Plains get the most hail, and no doubt a large portion of the $1 billion worth of damage.
1. Kericho, Kenya
Kenya may not be the first place that pops into people’s head when they think of hailstorms, but it gets more hail per year than anywhere else in the world. Kericho, Kenya sees around 50 days of hailstones annually and holds the record of 132 days in one year. Anyone traveling to Kericho may want to consider getting a helmet. The hailstones are typically small but frequent. Kericho is close to the equator and at an elevation of 7,200 feet, which contributes to it being a hot spot for hail.
If you are interested in extreme weather conditions, you may enjoy reading about our Top 5 Extreme Desert Environments.