The largest hailstones in the most destructive hailstorm on record for the Lafayette area occurred in the late afternoon hours of June 30, 1877. Severe weather was also reported in other parts of the present-day viewing area.
Local press reported “extraordinary hailstorm” lasting “5 minutes”, which pounded the far eastside of present-day West Lafayette to Lafayette. Stones of ping-pong to greater than softball-size occurred. Though “the average size of the stones was between a hen’s & goose’s egg” (2-3” diameter). Damage was immense to trees, crops, gardens & structures. Some of the stones reportedly weighed one pound.
Of the stones picked up, examined by residents & measured, the following measurements were made:
St. Nicholas: 1.5” diameter = 6” circumference = weighed 3 oz.
Taylor’s Lumberyard: 2.25” diameter = 9” circumference = weighed 5 oz.
Picked up directly off main street: 4” wide & 5” long.
Some stones were “as large has half brick” in parts of the city.
All skylights in the city were busted & all greenhouses had their glass panes shattered. Almost every south & west side of every building had their window panes shattered. Southwest of the city on the Wea, goose egg hail was reported (3” diameter), but the hail at Stockwell was reportedly much smaller. The intense storm did not extend to much beyond the east side of the city limits at that time, however. Multiple people were reportedly injured by the large hail.
To put this hailstorm into perspective (some stones 4" X 5"), the modern-day (since 1950) official Indiana state record for hail size is 4.50" in diameter. Such hail size occurred at Cayuga (Vermillion County) May 18, 2001 & Hartford City (Blackford County) April 9, 2001. These June 30, 1877 are the largest hailstones documented in any severe t'storm data I have recovered for Indiana, dating back to 1794.
Here is the account from the Lafayette Courier:
At 4:45 p.m. on Saturday, this city was visited by the most fearful hail storm ever heard of in this part of the world. Just prior to the storm, a heavy cloud came up from the direction of a little west of south, and at the same time became very dark, and to all appearances there was going to be a violent rain with wind. At first the rain began to fall in very large drops and somewhat scattering. This was quickly followed by large sized hail, which were also scattering. These two were quickly followed by increasing rain and the large slug hail stones began to fall, and at the same time the rain fell in torrents. A great many different sized ones fell in different localities, and the size and wright seems almost fabulous. It was claimed that one was weighted at the St. Nicholas that weighed one ounce over a pound. Dr. Powers measured one after the storm that was six inches in circumference and weighed five ounces. One was picked up on Main threat what was five inches long and four inches wide. The formations were different. In some places the stones were shaped alike icicles broken up in short pieces, some looking like stones, other like ice marbles frozen together. Some of the largest were hard and blue. The lasted about five minutes. The average size of the stones was between a hen's and goose's egg, but many of them were much larger , and several people said some of the hail was as large as a half brick. We have heard of only a few people who have been badly hurt. One man near Taylor's lumber yard was struck on the side of the face and severely hurt. Ed Sher got a belt on the arm that made him think that a mule had kicked him. We heard of quite a few people who were slightly hurt. Almost every skylight in the city was knocked sky-high, and green houses all looked like a country school house after school has been out about a week. Almost every south and west side of all the buildings in the had glass broken. On Oakland Hill the destruction of glass was worse than down town. The Weaver Block is completely riddled. Ex-councilman Wiebers' new house on Main street had a lot of glass shattered. The Cox homestead on Fifth street, go hit hard. But as was said before, hardly an exposed in the city escaped without broken glass. Nobody had been in from the country, so we have not been able to get the news from all parts of the county. Out south and about two miles this side of Stockwell, the hail fell in small quantities, increasing as it approached the city. At John Anderson's on the Wea, the hail was as large as goose eggs, but did not fall thick. On the west side the storm went a short distance beyond Purdue University. On the east side of the storm extended only a short distance beyond the city limits. So far as we can tell, the damage to the crops will be small. During the storms there was a number of runaways in different parts of the city. One team that belonged to Mr. Fry ran from Perrin's addition down Main street to Sixth street, up Sixth to Mrs. Barbee's, where the wagon struck the iron fence and tore down two panels. This was the biggest hail on record, and will not soon be forgotten.
This was part of an outbreak of severe weather from eastern Missouri to Ohio, which included a significant F4 tornado in southeastern Illinois to southwestern Indiana & another east of St. Louis. Multiple significant tornadoes tracked through south-central & east-central Indiana, accompaned by big hail of up to 3" in diameter. At least 18 deaths (15 alone in Johnson County) were reported & destruction occurred in its path from northern Morgan County, Indiana (just southwest of Indianapolis), through Johnson, Shelby, Rush, Henry to Wayne counties. Destructive tornadoes were also reported in central Ohio & one in central Kentucky, near Lexington. Violent, damaging severe t'storm was reported even just southwest of Cincinnati, Ohio at Vevay, Indiana.
It also appears that a tornado tracked through northern Putnam County, Indiana with at least two homes & one barn destroyed & much destruction to timber & crops. Two nearby homes were pushed off their foundations (one was pushed four feet off). Extensive wind damage was reported in Belle Union, northeast of Cloverdale, near Little Point (far northeastern Putnam Count). 6 people were killed in LaPorte & Elkhart counties by an apparent tornado. Others were "badly hurt" with much property destroyed. A three-story hotel was destroyed by an apparent tornado at Libery, Indiana (eastern part of the state).
Multiple rounds of severe weather & heavy rainfall were reported from Minnesota to Kansas May 24-29 (just prior to this big event), including a destructive tornado 6 miles west of Minneapolis on May 29 & a "violent local storm" occurred at New Ulm, Minnesota on the same day.
Below is a map showing the tracks of every surface low for the month of June 1877, made by the U.S. Weather Bureau at the time. Notice the June 28-30 surface low was well north of our area. Indeed, the storm system tracked well north of the area, but wind fields & shear (with the instability) must have been high to bring an outbreak of this magnitude.
- THE RECORD-BREAKING JUNE 30, 1877 LAFAYETTE HAILSTORM
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