Pat Shingleton: "Ba-Boom and Hail..."
The average yearly damage for property and crop losses from hailstorms totaled averages a billion dollars in the United States. Examples include an event on July 12, 1984 when Germany reported a hailstorm that caused $950 million in damage and in Canada on September 7, 1991, a single hail episode caused $500 million in crop damage. Years ago, Weatherwise magazine presented an interesting article by Griffith Morgan entitled, “The Return of the Anti-Hail Cannons.” Morgan researched the advent of these cannons and the methods researchers have attempted in preventing hail damage to crops. In the 1700s, farmers believed that explosions, cannon shots, ringing church bells and the beating of pans would reduce the amount of hail in thunderstorms. Luigi Bombicci was a mineralogist from Bologna, Italy and 1880, believed that hail could be prevented. His theory of “spherohedron” described the hailstone as a process of crystallization and to prevent the development of hail, sound could be used. In 1896, Albert Steiger, Mayor of Windisch-Feistritz, Austria, made the first attempt to defeat hail with the force of sound and did so by using a locomotive smokestack, packing it with black powder and then directing the explosion into the thunderstorm. Mayor Steiger professed that hail no longer would fall on his fields and cannons were accepted. However, in 1907 the Italian Royal Academy of Sciences noted that tests of anti-hail cannons weren’t effective and urged the government to cease encouraging this expensive and useless procedure. By the early twentieth century, anti-hail cannons disappeared. Replacing the cannons were anti-hail rockets that would explode 800 grams of dynamite, above the ground, to prevent hail formation. These explosions caused cold core eddies that develop hail to break up. The rockets were in conflict with safety measures designed by civil aviation. In 1972, the Corballan company of France marketed a new version of the hail cannon and remains the largest manufacturer of the devices. The new cannons substitute acetylene for black powder, automatically load and reload and are fired from remote locations.