Vol 109 (1996): Proceedings of the Florida State Horticultural Society


Published December 1, 1996
  • citrus,
  • juice color,
  • nutrition,
  • tree canopy volume


Hail damage is a rare and potentially devastating category of environmental plant injury in Florida. A severe hailstorm swept through Central Florida on the afternoon of Saturday, March 30, 1996, causing total damages approaching $25 million. Hailstones with diameters exceeding 4.5 in were reported by some storm observers. Nearly all hailstones observed were roughly spherical in shape. Shifted gamma distribution analysis confirmed that hailstones of this size were reasonable given the observed hail size distribution. Calculations of ice density, air density, drag coefficients, gravitational acceleration and the energy required to lacerate citrus rinds in the observed "inverted-V" pattern indicated that the terminal velocity of many hailstones at impact exceeded 100 mph. Many individual fruits were ripped completely in half by the hailstone shock, while leaves and branches were extensively tattered and torn from the trees. Some growers had signed crop sales contracts just prior to March 29, 1996, with harvests scheduled for the beginning of April, 1996. Unfortunately, damage to fruits from this hailstorm rendered these crops unharvestable. Estimated economic crop damages in some grapefruit and orange groves were 100% (approximately 700 boxes per acre). An estimated spot value of $3.00 to $3.50 per grapefruit box thus resulted in some insurance-adjusted crop losses approaching $1500 per acre. This paper presents a review of hailstorm meteorology and photodocumented evidence of one of the worst hailstorms damaging citrus in recent Florida history.