HAIL AND HIGH WATER: A firefighter poses with 4-foot hail drifts on April 11 near Amarillo, Texas. The melting hail has spurred heavy flash flooding in the area. (Photo: National Weather Service)
[skipwords]A major spring storm swept through West Texas on Wednesday, offering new evidence that everything really is bigger in the Lone Star state. The storm dumped incredible amounts of hail around Amarillo — so much hail, in fact, that many people have declared a photo of the piled-up precipitation to be literally incredible.
"Seriously people, he [is] standing in a crevasse between rocks. ... Come on!!" one Facebook commenter wrote. "Looks like another big Texas Tale," another added.
But according to Jose Garcia, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Amarillo, this image of tall hail is no tall tale. "Yes, it is real," Garcia tells MNN. "When you get that much hail in a concentrated area, it can pile up like that."
Some skeptical commenters have argued the hail looks too gray to be ice, but Garcia says that's just an effect of the region's dry environment: "It's dark in color because there's not much vegetation in the area, so it picked up a lot of dust."
The size of these hailstones isn't unusual, Garcia adds — they're only pea-sized. What separated this from a typical hail storm was the amount of hail, combined with the storm's slow pace through the sky. "I think this was just one of those weird storms that just sat here and came down extremely heavy in this one area," Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas told Amarillo's KAMR-TV Wednesday.
Not only was all this hail not a joke, but it also wasn't a laughing matter. With 2 to 4 feet of ice falling from the sky, visibility plummeted and many roads became unsafe for traffic. "Heavy rain and up to 4 ft of hail has US 287 blocked north of Amarillo," the Texas Department of Transportation tweeted Wednesday night. Snow plows were reportedly called in to clear hail from some roads.
The danger didn't end when the hail stopped falling, either. West Texas isn't very cold in April, so all that ice quickly began to melt — spurring heavy flash floods in parts of Potter County. Combined with 4 to 6 inches of rain, the melting hail produced up to 2 feet of water that forced further road closures. Much of the hail was still there Thursday afternoon, Garcia says, and it could take several days for all of it to melt.
Amarillo's Pronews 7 posted this video of the flash flooding:
As strange as Wednesday's weather was, it wasn't completely unprecedented, Garcia points out. "I haven't seen anything quite like that, but we did have a similar storm in 1993," he says, when hail drifts as deep as 6 feet were reported in some areas. And it's not just a Texas phenomenon — a town in southwest England, for example, was also buried under 6-foot hail drifts in 2008.[/skipwords]
Also on MNN:
- Largest hailstone confirmed in Hawaii
- 2010 storm dropped huge hail on Kansas
- Storm chaser catches terrifying Texas tornadoes
- Tornado chasers swap storm stories at weather festival