Saturday, July 31, 2010

Big weather pounds high plains -- big hailstone travels to Boulder

Sean R. Heavey/For The Billings Gazette

From the Billings Gazette: Sean Heavey of Glasgow tracked a storm that hit Valley County and Phillips County on Wednesday evening. A pickup truck pulling a trailer drives in the storm on Highway 2 between Hinsdale and Glasgow at about 8 p.m. Wednesday. Victor Proton, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service office in Glasgow, said reports indicated the tornado touched down for a brief time near Hinsdale at about 7:30 p.m.
Twenty-five tornadoes have been reported in Montana so far this year. That compares to seven last year. An EF3 tornado that hit Reserve on Monday killed two people and injured several others. Another big storm in Vivian, S.D., spawned hail the size of cantaloupe. One of those hailstones was 11 inches in diameter and may be the largest ever recovered. It was transported to the National Weather Service office in Cheyenne last week. On Friday, it was shipped off to NOAA in Boulder.
There's some bad news: When the NWS measured the hailstone, it had shrunk to only eight inches in diameter. This may endanger its chance for a weather record. 
At first, I thought the impressive chunk of ice was coming to town for Cheyenne Frontier Days. I would like to see a huge hailstone. Others would too. The CFD committee should have found a place in the parade for it. "Record-setting hailstone from Vivian, S.D. See it before it melts!" The stone, of course, would have to be transported in a refrigerated plexiglass case. Probably impractical. Hail is transitory, as are the storms that birth them.

High plains storms are bitchin' to watch from a distance but hell when they strike your community. On Sunday, Cheyenne marks the 25th anniversary of its deadly 1985 flood. Twelve people were killed, including the mayor's daughter.

Here's how the NWS describes it on its site "Historic flood events in the Missouri River Basin:"

By late afternoon on August 1, 1985, a stationary thunderstorm developed over Cheyenne, Wyoming, producing record amounts of rainfall. In approximately a 3-hour time span, six plus inches of rainfall occurred. The storm produced at least one tornado, heavy rains, and hail. In some parts of town, hail piled up to depths of 4-6 feet. The severe flooding resulted in 12 deaths, 70 people were injured, and total damages exceeded $61 million.
Strangely enough, another historic flash flood happened on the same day nine years earlier just 60 miles south of Cheyenne. It was the Big Thompson Canyon Flood that killed 135 people.

It takes a talented photographer to capture one of these summer storms (see above). For another impressive shot, go to

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