08/01/2010 09:47 pm ET Updated 6 days ago

Hell of A Hail Stone

When Les Scott went out into his backyard in rural South Dakota once the hail storm had stopped he was astonished.

And it started a virtual HSI (Hail Storm Investigation).

The National Weather Service activated its National Climatic Extremes Committee in Kansas City, Mo., and they headed to the scene in Vivian, South Dakota.

Stone had been careful to collect the evidence: several large stones, including one that weighed 1.94 pounds. It had probably melted a bit and the power was out so his freezer might not have been as cold as it might have been.

Still, the hail stone that fell July 23, was a record for the United States. It produced a dent in the ground the size of a coffee can.

Climatologist Nolan Doesken of Colorado State University, who has organized a large system of weather observers in all 50 states, said the hail stone was taken to Boulder, Colo., packed in dry ice. A relay team of members of his Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow network transported it.

It was placed in one of the National Center for Atmospheric Research's cold labs. Administration's cold labs. A cast will be made for display in South Dakota.

The previous record hail stone was 1.67 pounds and fell in Coffeyville, Kan., in 1970. The same NCAR scientist who dealt with the earlier storm, Charles Knight, is handling the latest stone.

No doubt there have been larger ones but no one was around to collect them.

Doesken noted that the size of the stone, eight inches in diameter, is a reminder that hail stones have killed people. Anyone in a hail storm should seek shelter. They sometimes are accompanied by tornadoes.

It sounded like "a guy throwing bricks at the house and many of them and it was scary," Scott said. "I just happened to see this one fall and the only reason I went out and got it is because it has all these fingers sticking out of it and I thought, 'Oh, that's weird.' So I thought I'd go get that one," Scott told

"I'm just glad nobody got hurt and the hope the town will recover soon," said Scott. Vivian is 146 miles east of Rapid City and has a population of 130.

Hail is also hazardous to aircraft.

Doppler radar can see thunderstorms likely to be accompanied by hail because the stones reflect energy. The Weather Service will issue warnings.

Dangerous hail storms have been reported in the northern mountain regions of India, China and parts of Europe. Because of the proximity of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado, Wyoming and western Nebraska are known as "Hail Alley."

Updrafts, especially near mountains can draw the hail back up into the clouds where they grow and become so heavy they fall.