Today in Weather History: Softball Sized Hail in Fort Collins Kills Baby


When you think of the end of July, the images that might come to mind are probably long, hot days, flash storms in the heat and weekends spend grilling outside or in the pool.

What you may not think about is softball-sized hail from a freak storm, but it has happened.

On July 30th, 1979, Fort Collins, Colorado had exactly that. Hail that was the size of softballs and grapefruit plummeted from the sky, causing over 20 people to seek treatment for injuries from the storm and one 3-month-old child to die.

Monsoon Season

The time at the end of July to the beginning of August is known as monsoon season in Colorado and is known for its intense weather. High-pressure systems moving rapidly with changing wind patterns and moisture from the south all combine during this time to create storms situations that are often rare, and very much unique to the area.

This was one such storm.

The Storm

In 1979, July 30th was a Monday, and the storm hit in the afternoon. No one expected such a downpour of hail, which is why there were so many injured in the storm. If this had happened in the middle of the night or early morning, it’s possible no loss of life would have occurred. But on Monday at 1 pm, people are going about their lives, doing errands, and not expecting to have to duck for cover.

It’s estimated that about 25 people sought treatment for their injuries, and one person described the emergency room of a local hospital as ‘a warzone’. Most of the injuries were head-related when a large piece of hail bounced off of them.

Jolene Kappelman, just 3 months old, was rushed to the hospital after she was hit on the head. She later died from a brain hemorrhage caused by the impact of the hail.

Frances Goodell, 84, was also hospitalized after breaking her arm during the storm.

Insurance Claims Through the Roof

One insurance agent spoke to the newspapers the following day and said their company had never seen such a storm before. Automobile repair shops, window specialists, and roofing companies were all booked for weeks following the storm.

It’s estimated that the 20-minute storm caused somewhere between $20-30 million in damage for residents and the community. When adjusted for inflation, that is between $70 to $100 million, which is a huge amount of damage for a single storm.

Reports of damage included broken windows, damaged carport roofs, dented hoods, trunks, and roofs of cars, and more. If it was outside, it probably got hit.