JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Holy 'Hail!' One of the most incredible, destructive hail storms you've ever seen went through the town of Wylie, Texas on Monday destroying countless cars, roofs and shattering thousands of windows.
The hail storm was so destructive, the Wylie school district has canceled classes for Tuesday due to the damage to roofs, A/C units and windows at their schools.
Wylie, a town just north of Dallas and due east of Plano, not too far from where the destructive EF-4 tornado wiped out portions of Garland and Rowlett the day after Christmas, witnessed one of the most incredible hail storms ever caught on camera.
As seen above, social media was abuzz with pictures and video of these lumps of ice that pummeled north Texas with gigantic stones falling at upwards of 100 mph.
According to the National Weather Service in Dallas-Fort Worth, hail stones in southern Collin county (just over the line from Dallas county) were measured to be upwards of 4.25 inches. How big is that? A softball is 4.50 inches.
To add insult to injury, winds topping 70 mph whipped through the area as well.
North Texas, and Dallas in general, is no stranger to big hail storms. When you think of billion dollar storms, you may think hurricanes or tornadoes. But north Texas is home to billion dollar hail storms!
According to Weatherunderground.com, the May 1995 'Mayfest' hail storm caused upwards of $1.1 billion dollars in damage and the June 13, 2012 hail storm may have caused upwards of $2 billion. While it's too early to determine what the monetary losses will be, it's clear that it could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
What makes this part of the country so prone to hail?
North Texas sits in the perfect spot where warm, moist air streams northward from the Gulf of Mexico and collides with cool, westerly winds from the Rockies. This creates an unstable environment where thunderstorms grow. As storms build, the grow taller into air that is colder and colder.
This allows rain drops to freeze. As the storms continue to grow, they breath heavier; and by that I mean they need to suck in more and more air from the surrounding environment. This is known as the updraft. The updraft keeps the frozen rain suspended allowing for more rain water to collect and freeze on it as it goes up and down in the cloud. Eventually, the hail stone grows too large for the updraft to support and down it comes!
The hailstorms in Texas on Monday, according to the National Weather Service required a wind speed of at least 103 mph to keep softball sized hail suspended in the cloud! Folks, that's almost a category 3 hurricane speed!
Could this happen in Jacksonville?
The answer is yes but very unlikely. Rarely do the conditions set up to where our lapse rates, the gradient in which our temperatures decline with height, are steep enough, with enough dry, cold air up top to allow for hail stones to grow this large. Our very maritime environment keeps us somewhat protected.