Hail and heavy rains struck some South Plains cotton on Oct. 22, but it's too early to get a handle on the extent of the damage, said a Texas AgriLife Extension Service expert.

"The bottom line is that we had quite a bit of rain in some places, perhaps 4 inches or greater depending upon where you go," said Dr. Randy Boman, AgriLife Extension cotton agronomist based in Lubbock. "

There were also heavy hail storms mixed with rain, he said.

Boman said the hardest hit areas started near Plains and followed State Highway 380 to Brownfield, and stretching as far south as the small town of Loop, a strip about 50 miles long and 15 to 20 miles wide.

The hail followed this path as well, but "skipped out," according to reports he had heard, Boman said.

That doesn't mean all cotton fields in the band of storms were damaged, Boman said. First, the hail wasn't constant throughout that strip, and second, quite a bit of cotton had already been harvested in those areas, about 15 to 20 percent.

"It was bad, of course, if you were under it, and had cotton still out," he said. "A lot of fields were completely stripped by the hail. Other fields still had leaves because they hadn't had harvest aids applied, and those might not have been as badly damaged."

Boman was planning to attend a regional cotton advisory group meeting on Oct. 29 where he expected to learn more from the gin operators as to what may have been lost.

"The damage is going to be hard to assess, and I don't know if we'll ever really know what we lost," he said. "A lot of that cotton had been harvested in these areas, especially the dryland."

The rest of the South Plains received from 1 inch to 3 inches but no hail, as did the Rolling Plains area, according to regional reports.

rd-burns@tamu.edu