Can hail really be exciting? Yes!

This promising Sunday started out slow and it was not until 4 in the afternoon when we actually landed at our first prospect. A very beautiful storm that seemed promising, but above all gave us a…sense of hail. At first, we heard a constant and fairly loud rumbling above us while we observed the storm. It was like thunder in the distance but the noise came from hail inside the storm. This “hail roar” was caused by hail falling down, getting caught by the updraft and tumbling around on each other. But, how could small bits of hail make a noise like that? I will get back to that at a later point.

This first storm fairly quickly turned uninteresting. Fortunately though, we just needed to turn 180 degrees around to find another storm cloud. It was just one of those days. We began to chase it but since we had positioned ourselves for the first cloud, we were completely wrong for the other. As a result, we had to make a so-called core punch, i.e. go straight through the storm to reach the right place.

This core punch was a long and tedious process of constant rain and at constant risk of hail. It was also pretty exciting to constantly be driving in the storm’s immediate trace. The rain, however, makes it very hard to discover a tornado, so we were quite keen to get out of the core.

After chasing through Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri, we finally reached the edge of the storm and passed it. By then it was sunset, which gave the whole cloud, a very eery looking color. Everyone hoped for a tornado right there and then. It would have give us some quite wonderful photos…but we were to see no tornado today. The storm did apparently produce a tornado later on that night, but tornado chasing at night is quite another matter which we did not attempt.

Today’s big adventure nevertheless was hail. First, the unspeakable hail rumble in the afternoon, secondly when we were once again gunned with golf ball sized hail on the way from there. The worst, however, was when we drove past the small village of Oregon, Missouri, arriving a few minutes after the storm had passed. Their tornado siren was on which created an even more dramatic dimension to what we saw on the ground. Hail the size of oranges! Oranges!

I realized then that we had previously been standing under a storm cloud in which tens of thousands of orange-sized spiky ice balls defy gravity only because of upward flowing air, tumbling upside down and constantly getting bigger and bigger…Wow!

Can you imagine the people who live there? You hear on the radio in the morning that there are tornado warnings in your county and that you should keep your eyes open. You continue to hear reports as the storm seems to be heading straight at your village. At 5.43 p.m. a tornado siren is starting and the sound drowns everything in the village. You go down into the basement with your family and just wait for a possible tornado to rip your house apart. First, the wind start to roar, then an artillery of hail roars against the ceiling, walls and windows.

When the storm have passed you go out into your garden or farm and realize that you are standing in Mother Nature’s driving range. You also realize that you are very happy not to have been caught outdoors. The punishment for being outdoors during a storm is Stoning with Ice Rocks!

Move to the Midwest anyone? 🙂

Wheat is beautiful. I just want to lie down and sleep on this bed of wheat.
radar echo with hook
A perfect storm structure as it looks on radar. An important little detail is the little hook on the bottom of the cloud, saying that the cloud rotates – a lot.
storm structure
An amazing perfect storm structure, that unfortunately did not turn out to be very interesting.
storm chaser caravan
A ridiculously long caravan of storm chasers, scientists, etc. following the storm. We are, however, first in line! 🙂 This season has not been a particularly good storm season and the creations of specific storm zones tend to attract everyone!
Our long drive in core punch was during massive rain at times. Here a few cars are waiting for the storm to pass, under a bridge. A very bad protection for possible tornadoes, since you are at risk being crushed under the bridge.
softball sized hail
One of the larger hail we found. It had already started to melt away and was probably a bit more spiny before.
hail with ruler
Most of the hail was not orange sized – this was more the normal size.
hail core
Hail core – seeing this one can understand a little better how the hail is created. Freezing rain lands on small hail grains and builds layer upon layer and gets bigger and bigger.
eerie skies
Imagine hearing a tornado siren, you look out and up at the sky and it looks like this.
The closest we got to a tornado this day. It was not even a funnel, just a bit low altitude clouds – Scud.
sunset in missouri
The relatively difficult storm hunting in Missouri (traffic, many hills, many trees, bad roads) ends with a wonderful sunset which is also lit up by a nearby field full of fireflies.

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