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October 8, 2009

Anyone remember this hailstorm?

 Hailstorm in Canberra, Australia

(No, not this one. It's a FLICKR PHOTO by marblegravy of the aftermath of a February 2007 hailstorm in Canberra, Australia.)  

But Samuel Cohen writes with a memory of one "hail-aceous" Maryland thunderstorm, one with hail so deep it's hardly believeable. Sam writes:

"I know that I did not imagine this, in the early 70's  1972-74 in July or August (I think it hit on a Wednesday or Thursday) we had a thunderstorm of which I have never seen before.  It hit right around 5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. and the sky was black as if it was midnight.   A deluge, in Patterson Park trees were knocked down and in the streets.  In Dundalk they had 12 inches of hail and had to bring in a snow plow to remove the hail..I read it in the papers experienced the storm and had a friend who saw the hail...Can you look this up and tell me I'm not crazy??  My friend who experienced the hail has since moved away and none of my other friends remember this storm....

To add to this at Fairmount Ave and Kenwood Aves (John's Bakery)  the cars were piled 3 cars high on each other and at the corner was Jerry Turner of WJZ with the film crew.  Every basement on Kenwood Ave was flooded and the city finally placed huge pipes there (it would always flood with any storm because of the hill coming down from St. Elizabeth's Church but this was the worse)  so it would never flood again...There were trees down everywhere on Baltimore Street..."

We're checking The Baltimore Sun's clip files. In the meantime, I forwarded Sam's question to Steve Zubrick, the science and operations officer out at the National Weather Service's Sterling forecast office. Here's his reply:

"Maybe the guy is crazy? Big storms have a way of getting "bigger" as one gets older you know.

"I did not find anything that matched the reader's description in our official "Storm Data", published by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).

"I initially did an online search of Storm Data. I got some hits of interest...Jun 21, 1974, Aug 14, 1974. The Jun 21 date didn't really match. See below regarding Aug 14.

"Then I searched the official NCDC Storm Data publications online (scanned copies of the original Storm Data paper copies...which we only have back to the mid 90s.). I searched  the months of July and August for 1972, 1973 and 1974.

"I found several  other event of July 6, 1974, where street flooding was reported between Balt. City and Jappatown.

"Another was the Aug 14, 1974 date (found above)...where golf ball-size hail was reported in Towson and 50 kt wind gusts reported at Martin Field.

"June 6, 1973 had a report of a line of severe storms that crossed from Frederick to Baltimore County during the evening...but with just the usual hit-miss mainly tree damage.

"Perhaps the closest report was on the evening of July 8, 1972 of "severe hail" in the "Northeastern portion" of MD...but mentioned Baltimore County (but not any of the locales your reader had). The report did mention some places where the hail covered the ground (but didn't say exactly where)...

"So...not sure any of these dates match.

"I know (from personal knowledge)...that back on April 1, 1993 (no foolin'!)...that the MD Eastern Shore town of Denton, MD ...  received a copious fall of up to golf-ball size hail stones that covered the ground...requiring local transportation resources to plow the hail off the roads...and the hail was big...up to baseball size!:

"Note: I suspect not all reports of severe weather make it into "Storm Data", especially back in the early '70s. One only has to look at the size (in pages) of the Storm Data publications I examined for this request (Jul-Aug 1972-1974)...that averaged ~20 pages or so...compared to a more contemporary Storm Data (Apr 1993)...that was 120 pages long!

"Steve Z

So, readers, does anyone else out there remember Sam's hailstorm? Can you pinpoint the date and provide verification of plowable hail in Dundalk? If so, leave a comment below. Thanks!

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:41 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Phenomena


He is not crazy. I was there. I lived at 514 North Lakewood Ave at the time of the storm. We would get floods a lot during the bigger thunder storms. All the kids in the neighbor would wait for the manhole covers to pop and the flood to begin. We did this in order to collect all of the white sponge rubber balls coming up from the storm drains. We used them for our baseball games we played in the alley ways in the neighborhood.

On the night of the big storm I was in our basement and my father was upstairs still eating dinner. By chance I happen to open the little door we had in the basement leading to the street. To my surprise I saw my father’s car begin its’ journey to Patterson Park, which is located four blocks away. I ran upstairs to inform him that his car was washing away only to have him not believe me. Up until this time it flooded a lot but not bad enough to wash the cars down the street. My father’s car was totaled that night. My sister’s car remained where it was parked only to have another car come to rest on it’s hood. A picture of her car was printed in the paper some time during that week. I believe it was the News American. There was also a man trapped between his Volkswagen Beetle and a tree while the flood was occurring. He had run out into the flood hoping to stop his Volkswagen Beetle from washing down the street. We also had a number of the trees on our block toppled over.

John’s bakery was located on the corner of Fairmount and Kenwood Ave. John would give the kids in the neighborhood some of his raw bread dough which we would eat, throw at each other and use for bait while fishing in the boat lake located inside Patterson Park. After the storm that night my friends and I roamed the neighbor to see all of the destruction that had occurred. John’s bakery was on the corner so the left hand side of John’s bakery faced Fairmount Ave. That wall having no other house beside it sustained a huge crack going down it side. If I am remember correctly I believe the storm occurred in August that year.

It was because of this storm that the street on Kenwood Ave was removed by the city digging a huge hole going down Kenwood Ave. to Patterson Park. It continue through the park all the way to the harbor. A storm pipe was placed into the hole to capture all of the water coming down from the hills on both sides leading up from Lakewood Ave., Glover St. and Kenwood Ave. My friends and I used to climb over the fence to get down into the hole to dig up old milk bottles, beer bottles, Bromo-Seltzer bottles and ink wells. We also found parts of broken clay pipes.

I don’t recall anything about Dundalk receiving hail during that storm but that is not to say it did not happen. I know for sure what is mentioned about did happen. I was there.

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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

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