Experts travel to Texas to measure, 3D scan large hailstone found in Salado

Christina Gropp, Public Affairs Manager and Meteorologist with Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), traveled from South Carolina with her teammate Ross Maiden to evaluate and 3D scan a large hailstone that fell in a Texas resident's backyard

Gina Brown lives just North of Salado, and preserved the hailstone she found in her freezer following severe weather in the area. This gave the IBHS a chance to travel down south and gather some information on the possibly record-breaking hail.

"This stone is very unique in all its bumps and crevices that is has," Gropp said. "It took Ross a little bit to get the 3D scan in all the nooks and crannies in there. But that's what we want to understand, is why these hailstones have their shape. As they grow, they become less spherical generally. So, understanding those relationships helps us advance science" 

Gropp says after 3D scanning the hailstone, her and her team at IBHS are then able to create a 3D printed model of the stone. The model is then used in research and helps IBHS learn more on how a hailstone travels within a thunderstorm. IBHS has flown 3D printed hailstone inside a vertical wind tunnel to see how it flies. 

Gropp said they have found that the lobes on a hailstone, like the ones seen on the Salado stone, act as rotors like on an airplane. These lobes help the hailstone rotate and stay aloft inside a thunderstorm. 

IBHS also sends a copy of any 3D printed hailstones to the founder as a thank you. 

"We always appreciate homeowners that reach out to National Weather Service and give those hail reports," Gropp said. "The citizen science is extremely critical to meteorology and weather forecasting." 

Following the 3D scan, Gropp and Maiden will bring the information back to the IBHS Research Center in South Carolina, where they will be able to fully determine the hailstone's precise measurements. 

Gropp says the Salado stone is competing with the Hondo hailstone, found in 2021. That hailstone is the largest found in Texas, at 6.416 inches. The largest found in the U.S. fell in Vivian, South Dakota and measured 8 inches in diameter. 

To learn more about hail research at IBHS, click here

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