20th Anniversary - EROS Center Hailstorm

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Softball-sized hail caused millions of dollars of damage to the USGS EROS Center 20 years ago this week. July 13, 1997, marks the date of the massive hailstorm in southeastern South Dakota. 

At the USGS EROS Center, we study land change, operate the Landsat satellites, and maintain the longest, continuously acquired collection of images of the Earth’s land surface.
Hyperlink: USGS EROS Center (https://eros.usgs.gov/)


Date Taken:

Length: 00:03:25

Location Taken: Sioux Falls, SD, US


Didn't really start noticing it
until I was maybe a mile south

on 121, and started to notice mostly
the crops were looking pretty thin.

But definitely coming up the EROS
access road, the crops along

that were just shredded.
There was nothing left of them.

On a Sunday afternoon, in July
of 1997, EROS was hit hard by

a massive hailstorm. Stones the
size of softballs dented, shattered

& crushed everything in their path.
Afterward, employees came out to 

assess the millions of
dollars of damage.

And the thing that really struck
me right as soon as I got out

of the car was, it smelled like
silage, fresh cut silage.

When I got out here you could hardly
walk in the yard, the divots were

so large from the hail.
Quite a mess. Very extensive.

It was like a war-zone out here.

You could spot the damage to the
satellite dishes. The one on the roof

the AVHR dish on the roof, the
DOM-SAT dish out front.

You know, the branches were
pretty well wiped out of

a lot of the trees.

There was a solar panel field and
that was completely destroyed.

Heating and cooling equipment
up there was all damaged

from the hail.

The atrium windows were gone.
The skylights were gone.

and so they were covered
up with tarps.

Anybody who was out here that
day, I think, pretty much

sustained pretty catastrophic
damage to their vehicle.

I think a little bit of how lucky
nobody was hurt. 

Nobody was outside, nobody was
hurt. Because softball size hail

would have killed somebody
I think pretty easily.

I had been called on Sunday,
kind of been warned or told

about all the damage that was
out here. I just remember

the anxiety or the anticipation.
The antenna, it was installed

All the parts and pieces were in
place, the antenna manufacturer

were out here doing acceptance
testing. So it hadn't been

been fully tested yet. But it was
getting really close.

I would say within just
a few days.

They counted hits, or the dents
on the antenna dish,

and there was over 2000,
so it was obviously when you

saw it, it was very devastating.
It made your heart sink

because of all the work that lead
up to that and we were so

close to having it ready to go.

When you go to the 2" size
of hail, that's going to pretty much

destroy vegetation. All you're
left with are just stalks of

corn, or little stems of soybeans.

Landsat can give us a better
estimation of the spacial area

that was affected by the hail.
So if we can feed that information

back to the weather service: this
is the area where the severe

damage actually occurred, they
can look at what was predicted

for those areas and lear and
possibly adjust the models

to better locate where the most
significant damage will occur.