Tony's Blog: Hail Caesar!

Freak Hail Storms

It’s 9 on Monday night and I am tracking a hefty thunderstorm on 3D Doppler radar in the Kanawha Valley. I see some purple on the color display which is often a signature of ice in the clouds. Dare I say some “crushed ice” is falling from these clouds between Milton and Hurricane and soon to enter Kanawha County by way of Scott Depot and Nitro.

A fair question to be asked is why all these hail storms recently? Truth be told, June is “the hail month” in our region as the temperature difference from say 20,000 feet to the ground is near its maximum for the year.

Take Sunday and today for an example. The temperature at 20K (20,000 feet) is running near 5 degrees! That’s cold for summer. Very cold!! Coincidentally, today’s high made 80 across our region. That makes for a 75 degree difference in 20,000 feet.

In meteorology, we call that difference a lapse rate and it provides a key clue as to when and where thunderstorms will form.

Now once those storms form, updrafts transport the first raindrops up to those very cold altitudes above. There the rain freezes into ice or hail. On it's way down, the ice will descend to an altitude where rain is falling. The rain water will collect around the ice and begin melting it, only to be caught in another updraft. Back up to arctic altitudes and water freezes again!

Now the new water on the old hail stone freezes and the hailstone gets bigger and bigger every time it is thrust up into the heavens. The number of updrafts the hail stone is caught in will determine the stone’s eventual size.

Those pictures from Kanawha County of Sunday’s hail storm reminded me of the Great Plains. In case you missed it, check out our compilation of e-reporter hail pictures. Here reports of golf ball and even lemon size hail stones were received.

For the record, snowplows were called in near Frame as hail covered the ground a few inches deep. Other areas that had ice cubes fall from the sky included Wellston, Grantsville, Sissonville and believe it or not, Ripley!

Here's the link on our home page of the incredible hail e-videos and e-pix you sent in. AMAZING!

On this Monday afternoon and evening, pea size hail has been reported in several locations, a far cry from Sunday’s “jugunda” (slang for big) stones.

As we transition into mid summer, the air warms in the heavens above and hail normally becomes rarer and rarer. Not so this late spring-early summer, where so far the heavens continue to give us a cold shoulder.

By the way, I contend this hail rut we are in confirms my notion of a temperate summer ahead. Remember, I have a forecast of 17 ninety degree days on the board. So far we have 7 in Charleston (6 Huntington), so that forecast may seem way too low, right?

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