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 ½ inches, which is actually larger than softball-size hail, defined as 4 ¼ 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 ½ 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.
Additionally, dozens of buildings in Bowie were damaged on Friday, possibly from a tornado, according to WFAA-TV and KXAS-TV. The National Weather Service in Fort Worth was working with Bowie Emergency Management on Saturday morning to determine if this was from straight-line winds or a tornado, according to weather service meteorologist Lamont Bain.
The Bowie Police Department said on Facebook that there were no deaths or major injuries in the storm.
Officials told Star-Telegram media partner WFAA-TV that at least 50 businesses and dozens of homes in Bowie, which is in Montague County, were damaged.
Among other damage, the fire department told WFAA that about 25% of the roof was ripped off a Best Western hotel in Bowie, and cars in the parking lot were damaged by flying debris, including one hit by the hotel’s sign. The Advanced Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center of Bowie next to the hotel had roof and flooding damage.
Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted Friday night that he has deployed resources including Texas Task Force 2 “to the North Texas area following severe weather and a tornado touchdown that has caused damage in Montague County.”
The largest hail in the region covered by the weather service’s Fort Worth office was 2 inches in diameter, reported in Bowie around 9:15 p.m. Friday, according to Jason Dunn, another weather service meteorologist. This was a cluster of storms separate from those in Burkburnett, he said.
The storms weakened Friday as they moved south toward the Dallas-Fort Worth region, which mainly received rain and gusty winds, Dunn said.
Seven inches of rain was confirmed at Lake Amon Carter, he said.
On Saturday morning, there were a few lingering showers north of Fort Worth and clouds were expected to clear by the early afternoon, leading to a clear and warm day, he said.
Rain is then expected to begin in the mid-afternoon to evening hours on Sunday due to a slow-moving storm system and continue into Memorial Day, he said. That system should hang around through Thursday, he said, leading to a rainy and wet week.
There could be flooding in low-lying areas, creeks and rivers, according to the weather service.
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