CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Heaven and Hail

By Darrin Parmenter, CSU Extension-La Plata County
Posted 7-25-13

Oh hail, no.

We here in arid southwest Colorado typically don’t see hail, or hail damage, like our brethren over on the Front Range. Our days are typically filled with plenty of sunshine through the day, a monsoonal rain shower in the late afternoon to cool things down, rainbows over the mountains, and even unicorns. Yes, it is a dreamland of epic proportions where everybody smiles and streams of lemonade come trickling down the rocks.

Hail damage on immature apples.
Until the day, when on a relatively rare occasion, it hails. According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, hail is a type of precipitation that forms when updrafts in thunderstorms carry drops of rain back up into colder areas of the atmosphere, where they freeze into balls of ice. These projectiles have violent collisions with supercooled water droplets, increasing the size of the hail stone. If the updrafts are strong enough, the hail continues to be pushed towards the tops of the clouds until at some point the air cannot support the weight of the stones and they come crashing down – at speeds estimated near 100 mph – to earth.

So as science geeks, this is an incredible process. But if you have trees, or vegetables, or a car, hail is typically not a welcomed form of precipitation. Two weeks ago a powerful system moved through our area, dropping hail from the Hesperus area eastward through Ignacio and even into western Archuleta County. Localized hail caused significant damage to a number of gardens and farms. If your landscape has been hit by one of these storms, here are some suggestions:

  • Your squash and cucumber plants are going to look awful. The large, fragile leaves could be shredded. But fortunately, cucurbits are fast growers that they typically recover relatively quickly.

  • Leafy crops may also be shredded. Try to remove all damaged leaves and hopefully the plant will regenerate new growth.

  • Fruit, such as apples or pears, may incur damage in the forms of pitted fruit. This fruit is not marketable and if it does survive will almost always be scarred.

  • Most plants will respond favorably to a light application of nitrogen and some micronutrients after the hail event.

1 comment:

  1. Pretty rare here in Mesa County too, but it happens. I've been known to grab the patio umbrella and hold it over my pear tree!