Devastating hailstorm strikes Hale County, Texas

A severe storm, packing wind gusts up to 70 miles per hour, heavy rain, and devastating hail swept through the western part of Hale County Oct. 10, leaving behind hail accumulations of 5 inches, rainfall amounts exceeding 3 inches, and some $15 million in crop losses.

“I have not seen such a destructive hail storm since June 1997,” said Michael Dolle, Hale County agricultural Extension agent.

Todd Lindsey, meteorologist with the National Weather Service at Lubbock, reported wind gusts of 70 miles per hour with estimated sustained velocities of 40 to 50 miles per hour.

Dolle estimates 100,000 acres in Hale County were affected, some severely. “The hail damage to cotton will probably result in a loss of about 40,000 bales with an estimated value of $10 million. We estimate corn losses to be about $2 million, and grain sorghum losses to approach $3 million.”

Doug Nesmith, manager of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station facility at Halfway, said the station was on the eastern edge of the storm and received only 0.64 inches of rain accompanied by some pea-sized hail. Damage to crops was minimal. However, from just 3 miles and further west of Halfway, the story was much different.

One producer reported baseball-size hail that fell for about 45 minutes and then dropped to pea-size. Accompanying rainfall exceeded 3 inches.

His cotton crop was “chewed up” and only plant “stubs” remained after the storm.

Nesmith and his colleagues surveyed the area west of Halfway the next morning. “We saw pickups and cars with windshields completely broken out. Every window on the north side of buildings was broken or completely missing. And crops in field after field had been wiped out.

“We saw about 15 center-pivot irrigation systems partially or completely overturned, but we are sure there were many more we did not see,” Nesmith said.

Thirteen hours after the storm some hail stones remained in roadside ditches. “We even saw golfball-sized hail stones along our route,” Nesmith said. “Clearly it was a devastating storm, and a severe negative impact on the area economy.”

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