Colorado experiences thousands of major hail storms every year. In fact, the frequency of severe hailstorms in the Centennial State is the fifth highest in the nation. With severe Colorado hail storms being not only a possibility, but an inevitability, it’s crucial to keep your property safe and find protection from hail damage throughout the year.
Here, we’ll discuss the worst hailstorms in Colorado’s history. From automotive hail damage to fatalities, in some cases, these Colorado hail storms were devastating natural events.
Colorado and “Hail Alley”
The worst hailstorms in the U.S. occur in the middle of the country. Specifically, the area nicknamed “hail alley” sees the highest volume of hailstorms than any other region in the country. Hail alley spans northeastern Colorado, southeastern Wyoming, and western Nebraska. Some people would also argue that Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas are included in hail alley, though the intersection of Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska specifically receives the most hail.
Why is Hail Worse in Colorado?
Hailstorms really are worse in Colorado, and it comes down to the heightened elevation. Up here, in the home of the Mile High City, the air is thinner. This causes hail to fall through the air at a quicker rate and, ultimately, hit surfaces harder upon landing. When it comes to automotive hail damage, Colorado car owners have to have to be extra aware to keep their vehicles safe during hailstorms.
The Worst Hailstorms in Colorado’s History
Throughout Colorado’s history, certain hailstorms have stood out for their severity and impact on the affected community. Often costing billions of dollars in hail repairs, Colorado’s most severe hailstorms are hard, if not impossible, to forget.
The following five hailstorms are still remembered today as some of the worst hail events in the history of the state.
July 30, 1979
July 30, 1979 was a Monday, and during the afternoon, a hailstorm pounded the city of Fort Collins. The storm produced hailstones as large as baseballs and even grapefruit, wreaking havoc across the region. The destruction to cars, homes, and other infrastructure was staggering, totaling millions of dollars in damages. The storm is widely remembered for taking the life of a 3-month-old child, Jolene Kappelman, who was hit on the head with a hailstorm as her mother ran for shelter.
July 11, 1990
The hailstorm of July 11, 1990 was, at its time, the most expensive hailstorm in Colorado’s history to date. The storm began to unfold around Estes Park before moving southeast, past the foothills, over the Denver metro area, and petering out on the northeast side of Colorado Springs. Hailstones the size of golf balls and baseballs were reported and caused significant damage across the state. Thousands of cars were totaled, thousands of homes were severely battered, and overpowered storm drains even lead to flooding in many Colorado homes.
July 20, 2009
The July 20, 2009 storm combined severe hail with outstandingly high winds and even brief tornadoes. Branches were broken, power lines were downed, and hailstones shattered windows and dented surfaces. Hailstones the size of golf balls were reported and even accumulated in some areas, leaving evidence of the storm’s severity in its wake. Tens of thousands of homes also lost power for several hours due to the storm.
July 28, 2016
On July 28, 2019, a major hail storm hit Colorado Springs and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in home and automotive hail damage. Commercial property incurred exceedingly expensive damages, too, with the Colorado Springs Airport reporting half a million dollars in damages (at least). The storm brought on tennis ball-sized hailstones and is one of the most destructive events in the history of the state.
May 8, 2017
The May 8, 2017 hailstorm that hit regions to the west of the Denver metro area – Golden, Lakewood, and Wheat Ridge – was deemed one of the most expensive in history. The storm struck at rush hour, which maximized the damages and the number of Coloradans who were impacted. Initial damages from the storm were estimated at well over a billion dollars for commercial and residential property. The storm produced hailstones the size of golf balls and baseballs, forcing several businesses to close until damages could be repaired.