An Evening of Hail

On Wednesday, Hutchinson County saw its first major supercell thunderstorm in nearly two years, producing several funnel clouds, golfball sized hail, and five inches of rain in the Fritch area.According to Hutchinson County Fire Marshal Danny Richards, the storm started forming south of the Fritch area at around 2:30 p.m. where he remained stationary for several hours. The lack of movement in the storm led to part of Fritch reporting five inches of rain and caused to Highway 136 between Fritch and Amarillo to be closed for one hour, at around 7:30 p.m. due to flooding.As the afternoon moved along, the storm produced a wall cloud and showed the capability of producing a tornado, with Richards saying, “The storm produced several funnels throughout the evening, but they were over open country. The storm definitely showed the capability of producing a tornado, but thankfully no tornado was formed during the storm.”At around 6:30 p.m. the storm started to move slowly to the east and produced golfball sized hall in the Fritch area.Richards said during the worst part of the storm, at around 6:30 p.m., a 911 call was received for a one vehicle accident three miles south of Fritch on Highway 136.While responding to the accident, Richards said several emergency response vehicles suffered major damage, including lost windshields due to golfball and ping pong ball sized hail in the area.While working the accident, Richards said members of the Fritch Volunteer Fire Department had to use their helmets to shield an accident victim while they were being moved from their vehicle to the ambulance. Richards said the victim was taken to Golden Plains Community Hospital in Borger but the cause of the accident and status of the victim were not known on Thursday morning.The core of the storm continued to move at a northeast direction through Hutchinson County throughout Wednesday evening and left the Hutchinson County area at around 1:00 a.m. on Thursday.Also on Wednesday afternoon, a sister supercell storm was located in Moore County, where it produced a significant amount of hail, forcing U.S. Highway 287 between Dumas and Amarillo to be closed and snowplows to be called out to clear hail off the highway.As of Thursday morning, Richards said he did not know the extent of the damage the storm cause across the county, but he expects the damage to be significant. Richards said, “The hail that was produced in this storm was large, but I expect that it caused a lot of property damage because it was also extremely hard.” Richards said officials are out assessing damage caused by the storm and expect to have an estimate for the damage by early next week.Richards said the rain the county has seen has helped bring down the potential for grassfires. However, it is too early to say it is out of the drought it has seen over the past two years. Richards said, “We were close to normal for our precipitation, but in what we saw on Wednesday I expect we are above normal on our rainfall for the year at this time.” Richards added, “With the amount of rain that fell, it will be interesting to see how the storm affected the water level at Lake Meredith and hopefully it will bring it up a couple of inches.”The recent rains have also allowed Hutchinson County to lift the burn ban.Richards said it appears the county will see a close to normal spring weather pattern with an increased change of thunderstorms, compared to what it has seen over the past couple of years.