Why so much hail in these Houston storms?

CREDIT: Matthew Stein via Facebook

Matthew Stein, who took that cover picture, grew up in the Bellville area and the storm Friday, March 15th is one he’ll never forget: I’ve never witnessed anything like it in my whole time living here...there was so much hail on the ground it made fog...I couldn’t see anything. And also there was no power thru the whole town. I’ve never in my life seen something like that around here.

Here’s another “winter wonderland” photo from Bellville posted on Click2pins:

CREDIT: BBegley on Click2pins

Damage to homes, roofs, and trees was found all across Bellville in Austin County, especially south. Here’s the story of one family from the Austin County News On-line.

RELATED: “It was intense,” Hail storm shakes homes across Southeast Texas

And then just last Thursday night, March 21st, another hail storm moved across with copious amounts of hail. This Click2pin is from New Caney:

CREDIT: michelle.hernandez on Click2pins

Why so much intense hail with these storms? The wind. Most all thunderstorms create hail at the top of them, which often melts before reaching the ground. As the storms advance winds ahead of it go up into the storm (updrafts), pushing the rain to colder levels where the rain freezes to ice. That ice falls and can go up again and again for more rides with the wind, often becoming larger until it’s heavy enough to fall all the way to the ground. In the case of our recent storms, they had strong updrafts AND downdrafts so the hail didn’t have to take many rides up and down. The hail formed quickly when the updraft pushed the rain to higher levels, and then very strong downdrafts pushed the hail to the ground, so there was no time for melting and thus a LOT of hail.

Unfortunately, those strong downdrafts also hit the ground and spread out (like when you point a hose at the ground and water sprays everywhere). Those straight line winds are what caused so much damage across the area. The National Weather Service has some great explanations about hail.

All told, these are fairly typical storms for us when winter’s cold is losing its grip to spring’s warmth--that difference in hot and cold is what creates such differences in the winds, so we get strong updrafts and strong downdrafts (and tornadoes), but two such hail events in a week are, indeed, rare.

After today’s lighter showers, we’re smooth sailing into the Easter weekend. Enjoy!


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About the Author

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with four decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.

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