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'A pretty rare event.' Hail the size of softballs falls in northern Texas

Jack Howland, Fort Worth Star-Telegram on

Published in Weather News

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Hail the size of baseballs, softballs and larger pummeled Burkburnett north of Wichita Falls on Friday evening, ripping through roofs and the windshields of cars, according to the National Weather Service in Norman, Okla., and social media posts.

Randy Bowers, a weather service meteorologist, said the hail was falling in Burkburnett during a roughly 15- to 30-minute period around 6:40 p.m. The weather service was able to confirm through social media hail as large as 5 1/2 inches, which is actually larger than softball-size hail, defined as 4 1/4 inches, Bowers said.

For reference, the national record for hail size was 8 inches, reported in South Dakota on July 23, 2010, he said.

Thunderstorms formed west of Wichita Falls in the late afternoon Friday, he said, gaining strength as they moved east toward Burkburnett. Residents in the region were under severe thunderstorm warnings before the hail started dropping.

People took to social media Friday night to gawk at the large hail, sharing photos of the hailstones in their hands. Angie McCoy, a Burkburnett resident, took a photo of a hailstone in one hand and a softball in the other hand, which were the same size. Her friend shared it to Twitter.

Another Burkburnett resident, Toni Scott, shared a photo of a child holding a large hailstone.

 

Bowers said hail as large as 5 1/2 inches is "definitely unusual."

"It wasn't the record for the largest hailstone ever observed, but it's certainly pushing the higher end of the hailstones we would typically receive reports of," he said. "Anytime we get hail over about 4 inches in diameter that's a pretty rare event."

It was a lot of "instability in the atmosphere" coupled with the severe thunderstorms that led to the massive hailstones, Bowers said.

There were also some reports of tornadoes to the east and west of Burkburnett, he said, though he wasn't able to confirm if they touched down.

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