GERMANY — Hailstones as large as walnuts, kumquats, and even grapefruit have been recorded, but all are pallid compared to some man-sized beauties that fell on Germany in 1930. Five glider pilots ran into bad weather high above the mountains and were forced to bail out.

But instead of free-falling, they were lifted by a violent updraft to the top of a cloud, where they acquired a thick coating of ice. Then they plunged earthward, the ice layer — alternately melting and refreezing as they passed through successive layers of warm and cold air — growing ever larger. All the chutes opened, and one of the men survived. But the others, frozen to death, hit the ground as human hailstones.