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Alachua Co. SKYWARN News

May 14th, 2000 Hail Event

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About 4:20pm, the weather radio went off. NWS-Jax had put out a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for our area (for NW Alachua Co., and NE Gilchrist Co.). ACEM Dispatch put out a weather warning page. I sent out an e-mail alert to all registered spotters, and then called up a SKYWARN net on the GARS 146.820 repeater at about 4:29pm.

At the time of the issuance of the warning, a storm with Doppler-indicated large hail was 10 miles west of High Springs, or 7 miles west of Bell (in Gilchrist Co.), moving east at 30mph, and was expected to reach High Springs by 4:30, Alachua by 4:45, and LaCrosse (north of me by a few miles) by 4:50pm.

Initial check-ins were Jim/KC4MHH (spotter ID ALA-3, who watched the radar), John/K4KAM, KG4GOI, Mike/KE4UVQ (ALA-42, enroute to the Waldo area), and Kevin/KE4NVI (ALA-50, in High Springs, in the 82-repeater "dead-zone," and who was relayed in by KC4MHH on the phone). ...Not to forget myself, Todd/KB4MHH, acting as Net Control, ALA-1.

4:35pm - KG4GOI reported he had been in Bell (Gilchrist Co.) 15 mins earlier and had encountered some 1/8" hail and heavy rain. Kevin/KE4NVI (ALA-50) reported now encountering 3/4" hail in High Springs. I called these in to NWS-Jax and meanwhile temporarily handed net over to KC4MHH to control so that my hands and ears could be free.

4:45pm - Kevin/KE4NVI (ALA-50) reports hail now down to 1/2" and with heavy rains.

4:48pm - Sonny/KE4SLL checked in and reported that his son in High Springs had just advised him that he was experiencing golf-ball-sized hail.

4:49pm - NWS now issues a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Clay Co. until 5:30pm. Kevin/KE4NVI (ALA-50) reports hail has stopped in High Springs.

4:52pm - Kevin/KE4NVI (ALA-50) advises now heavy downpour, some lightning, but no hail.

4:56pm - Mike/KE4UVQ (ALA-42) driving west on NW 156th, experiencing temperature drop, cell moving east. Will report on any damage seen.

4:57pm - Jeff/W4UFL (ALA-31) checks in from his home in the Northwood Pines subdivision. Not experiencing anything just yet.

4:59pm - Mike/KE4UVQ (ALA-42) north on 121, now.

5:00pm - Jim/KC4MHH (ALA-3) advising "storm hook" appears to be dissolving - now between High Springs and LaCrosse. Looking north out my window, I can see what appears to be an area of rains meeting an obvious updraft area - with what appears to be a large "updraft box," which is quickly changing shape, perhaps a mile and a half away. In the time it took me to simply walk outside to get a better look, the boot-shaped distension within had already completely disappeared. (That was fast.)

5:02pm - NWS issues a Severe Thunderstorm Warning now generally for "Northern Alachua Co." until 5:45pm. It includes the words "a trained NWS spotter reports...", meaning Kevin/KE4NVI's report. (Congrats, Kevin.)

5:04pm - Mike/KE4UVQ (ALA-42) reports heavy rains north of LaCrosse, winds now around 5-10 mph, increasing.

5:05pm - Handed net over to Jim/KC4MHH (ALA-3) permanently while I got ready to meet my brother at his house for a Mother's Day dinner. I'm late getting ready.

5:12pm - Winds begin to pick up now at Whitney Mobile Home Park, somewhat. At first a very light drizzle. Still very warm air.

5:13pm - Rains pick up now. Winds getting steadily stronger. Then, Art/KA2YOF, in Turkey Creek Forest subdivision (across street [US-441] from me), calls in a report of hail just starting at his location. [A later e-mail from him.] At same time, I report I'm experiencing no hail, but ... I was just about to add that YOF was right across the street from me so I should be getting some any second, when...

5:14pm - ...just as I say that, the sounds of "rocks" hitting my roof begins. Hail lasts some 8 minutes or so, with hail size starting about graupel size (pea sized) and slowly increasing in size (up to one stone measured by ruler at about 2-1/4 inches). Some stones hitting the ground in the distance looked even larger. The hail increased in intensity, until sounds on roof began to resemble that of a dump truck unloading hundreds of pebbles upon it; incessant sound of pounding. Sometimes they'd hit the windows, and you'd think a window broke. Checked. No windows broken, luckily. (A later more detailed check around the house revealed that one window screen on the west side of the house did have a small rip in it, I supposed from one rough hailstone hitting it while spinning. That was probably what we heard.) At one time, many windows were being hit rapidly. Outside, ground was beginning to look like a white pebble garden. I ran outside a couple times and grabbed the largest stones that I could find, measured them, recorded them on video and digital camera. The accumulating puddles in the deluge were pretty cold. [ SEE VIDEO ]

5:17pm - In the middle of all this, Jeff/W4UFL (ALA-31) reports starting to experience hail at his location, now. At first, a half-inch. He also reports similar experience: hail slowly increasing in size and intensity, along with strong winds and heavy rains. Hail at his location increased to golf ball size. You can hear the excitement in his voice. He's happy. (grin)

About 5:21pm, the hail began to cease, leaving only the rains and some wind. But then, they also began to die down, slowly.

About 5:23pm, hail begins to let up also at Jeff/W4UFL's (ALA-31) location, as well.

By 5:30pm, the rains at WMHP had died enough to go outside for longer periods and to examine the ground-fall more closely.

Jim/KC4MHH (ALA-3) carried the net until the storms left the county. Mike/KE4UVQ (ALA-42) was looking around for damage and reporting it in. Some damage experienced around the Waldo Flea Market area, to mobile homes, the sign atop Bobby's Hideaway, and to the Flea Market itself. Mike took some video of it. Was reported to ACOEM. (Jim, was there anything significant that happened during your shift on the net?)

Except for a slightly messy ground - from hail cutting leaves and very small twigs from trees, some garbage cans blown around - and my single, slightly torn window screen - no real, appreciable damage experienced here at Whitney Mobile Home Park. (See later, added note, below.)

However, in the Waldo Flea Market area, Mike/KE4UVQ did encounter some damage. The sign at Bobby's Hide-a-way was slightly damaged, and the second roof that they had just added had been blown back. (The first roof was leaking so they added a second one right on top of that.) Here's another photo of the back of the roof. The winds from the storm apparently ripped it off and blew it back. A mobile home in the area had also experienced a broken window. Across the street from Bobby's Hide-a-way, Mike noted a radio antenna that had been bent over halfway, towards the northeast, in the winds. He took video of the damage he encountered, and this was all reported to emergency management.

* Later, Additional Damage Reports:

05/16/00 - Whitney Mobile Home Park: Next-door neighbor Dennis advises that one of his west-side windows was indeed broken from the hail.

[Note: I suspect that as I talk to more residents of WMHP that I'll be hearing about more and more episodes of hail damage to windows and screens.]

* Notes/Some Lessons Learned:

The day after, I noted that in the LSRs ("Local Storm Reports," issued by the NWS to record events of severity in particular areas) did not have recorded in them any of the larger-sized hail events (2 to 3 inches) that had occured within Gainesville.

Possible causes/solution?...

Guessing, but one may be that - after I relinquished Net Control to Jim/KC4MHH, instead of reporting directly to the NWS, Jim called in his reports to ACEM (Alachua Co. Office of Emergency Mgmt.). It may be possible that ACEM has its own in-house policy regarding the reporting of severe weather events. They may not be relaying thier reports to the NWS, or, they may not be relaying them to the NWS in time enough to be considered still "fresh," and thus still acceptable for posting in the LSRs. The current policy suggested by the NWS is that spotters relay thier reports to local emergency management, and local emergency management is supposed to then take on the task of relaying those reports to the NWS - including spotter ID number information. However, I don't think this is what is actually going on. So we may need to get with them and ask and find out and, if this is the case, maybe work out a new, more well defined policy with them about how to handle the reports. I think its important because our reports are not only pertinent for our own county, but for other surrounding counties, as well. What they see of our reports can give them a heads up as to what a storm is doing, and what to be prepared for, or looking for, as the storm approaches them. 2 to 3 inch hail reports would have alerted nearby counties that the storm was in fact getting stronger, and that the danger level was thus that much higher. And its especially important that the reports get to the NWS as well and relayed from there because thier reports are more widely distributed, and thus seen by that many more counties - not just EM agencies, but by the civilians, farmers, etc., as well.

Some of the reports which should have been sent to the NWS but weren't are here, and I've put them in the format in which they most likely would have appeared in the LSRs had they been included.

* Some Spotter Comments:

Later e-mail from Bill Wells/K4RDP, advised that our calls were "right on," and thanked us. Advises that it was also a learning experience as well, for he and his grandchild, calling it a "wondrous site." He also advised that thier cat, "Jerome," adeptly demonstrated the proper methods for seeking shelter during such a storm. He said he went outside and picked up a few "plumb-sized" pieces of hail, himself, from his own yard.

* Personal Comments:

So, after all this long drought and heat, from out of the blue that day came a very thin track of severity that tracked right over my home, here. And we were finally able to get in a spotter report after so many months of ... nothing really exceptional going on. Anyway, personally, so ends my severe case of "SDS syndrome" (a chaser term for "Severe Deprivation Syndrome," I believe that's what its called, which usually is experienced by them during the lull seasons out in the midwest, and while I'm not a chaser, myself, I'm still interested in the weather and, I have to say, the last two years here in northern Florida has been pretty darned hot, miserable, and boring).

That was exciting. Finally! Something to _talk_ about, for once, after a too long a bout of nothing happening and utter boredom weather-wise.

And what an amazing amount of hail to see, too. So much, so large, and occuring in just 8 mins. time - only to melt away completely after about an hour, leaving no trace, except for the leaves that they had cut down all over the place.

While I've seen 1/4-inch hail before, I've never seen stuff of this size, _or_ in the wildly varying, oddball shapes - from perfectly round, to ... "boilingly pimpled" I guess is the only description I can seem to come up with right now. And when some of these were examined, up to seven rings could be counted in a rare few (without cutting and shaving them, first), indicating up to seven up-and-down trips through the storm's updrafts and downdrafts. Of the largest one that I'd found (about 2.25 inches), it had a clear area, outlined by a thick outside edge, as if it was a piece of something larger that had broken off somewhere in its travels. This effect was common, too, among many of the hail pieces found.

The thin track that the storm made across the county was also interesting. This was visible in the later precip. amounts radar display.

After the storm passed, I could see some "mammatus" (pouches) on the underside of the anvil, which is supposed to be indicative of strong updrafts. These quickly dispappeared after a very short while - leaving only barely perceptable up-and-down "striations" where the anvil connected to the updraft tower. I took this to mean that the storm was finally losing strength. I wish I'd taken an example photo of this, but I didn't have the camera with me, then. I was driving to the store at the time.

At just before sunset, returning from the store, I looked eastwards towards the storm now perhaps over Flagler county, still huge, and it had a CE3K "mothership" type of appearance to it, made "CE3K orange" by the low sun. I wish I could have taken a photo of that, too. ["CE3K" = Close Encounters of the Third Kind, referring to the movie.]

I took this digital photo of some of the hail I was able to gather. Of what I gathered I put it in the freezer for later closer examination. Its a little whited-out by the flash, sorry about that, but the sizes and shape-outlines are there. Anyway, I have some interesting video and some digital photos which I showed at the May 15th ARES-RACES-SKYWARN Communications meeting.

Satellite Imagery:

RADAR Imagery:

(For a quick general description of the various radar products and each of their uses, see NCDC Radar Products.)

Administrative 'Yet To Do':

  • Obtain satellite imagery
  • Obtain AFDs, ZFPs, HWOs, LSRs, and any severe-related watches/warnings

Alachua County SKYWARN
c/o Todd L. Sherman/KB4MHH
Gainesville, Alachua Co., Fla.
E-mail: admin@alachuaskywarn.org
Created: May 15, 2000.
Last updated: April 21, 2012.

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All Rights Reserved.

Photos taken at Bobby's Hide-A-Way and of "radio antenna" taken by and
Copyright © 2000-2012 by Michael Robinett/W4UAV. All Rights Reserved.
Used herein with permission.

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