Monster hail fell from the sky and hammered areas of the central United States on Tuesday, shattering a state record. Earlier on Tuesday before the storms developed, AccuWeather Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer warned that Colorado’s state hail record could be in jeopardy given the intensity of the storms that he saw developing.
His prediction came to fruition on Tuesday afternoon when a hailstone with an unofficial measurement of a maximum diameter of 4.83 inches fell in Bethune, Colorado, on Tuesday afternoon. The record was confirmed on Wednesday evening by the Colorado Climate Center and the National Weather Service office in Goodland, Kansas. The previous state record in Colorado was 4.5 inches.
@NWSBoulder @NWSGoodland I am verifying what looks to be a record setting hailstone for #cowx Am told this fell near Bethune this afternoon. Would easily beat the 4.5" record… Given the way the radar looked, I wouldn't be surprised. Stay tuned! pic.twitter.com/LiUazILn6r
— Brian Bledsoe (@BrianBledsoe) August 13, 2019
As the Colorado Climate Center said on Twitter, photos indicate that the stone could have been even larger than recorded due to the time in between its falling and when it was put in the freezer.
The weight of the record-breaking hailstone came in at 8.5 ounces.
A dramatic video posted on social media captures one truck driver in an intense hailstorm in Frederick, Colorado, on Tuesday night. The truck driver, Brittney Richardson, expressed concern while in the back of her truck cabin.
“I heard kind of a bang and I thought somebody hit the truck,” Richardson said. “The truck started rocking and we have large hail coming down.”
As Richardson narrates the video, large thuds can be heard in the background. She feared the truck would be “totaled” by the large hail and told Storyful the experience was “absolutely terrifying.”
Richardson has been driving a semi-truck around the nation for seven years, documenting her travels on her Facebook page, “Brittney in Pink”.
Timmer was staked out in far northeastern Colorado to monitor the storms. He reports that the area experienced a “perfect combination of wind shear, low-level moisture and mid-level dry air” to stir up some strong severe storms.
The main storm in question developed in the High Plains near Bethune on Tuesday in the afternoon with a report of hailstones in excess of 5 inches in diameter, which would be similar to pirate ship cannonball-sized, at 3:35 p.m. MT, according to AccuWeather Senior Storm Warning Meteorologist Eddie Walker.
“The atmosphere was primed for strong to severe thunderstorms with very high instability, modest speed shear and strong low level directional shear. This allows for long-lived storm structures with strong, sustainable updrafts,” Walker said.
Another remarkable aspect of the hail was how it presented on radar. Brian Bledsoe, the chief meteorologist for Channel 11 news in Colorado Springs who shared photos of the monster hail on Twitter, marveled at radar imagery depicting the hail that was falling from the sky. “Given the way the radar looked,” Bledsoe said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the hailstones the storm unleashed are indeed record-breaking.
So how do meteorologists recognize exceptional hail on radar imagery?
AccuWeather Meteorologist and Social Media Manager Jesse Ferrell explains forecasters analyze specialized radar and must know what tell-tale signs to look for.
“NEXRAD Doppler Radar detects the size of water droplets that its beam intercepts, so higher ‘reflectivities’ (colors you see on your average television or internet radar) indicate larger drops, or hail,” Ferrell said. The radar snapshot seen below shows the highest reflectivities (purple) southwest of Bethune at the time of the hail depicted in the photo fell on Tuesday.