BATTLE CREEK – We had two to three rounds of storms move through most of West Michigan on Saturday this past weekend. Some of these storms were marginally severe with 60 mph wind gusts and one inch size hail. Recall that severe thunderstorm warnings are issued when a storm is capable of producing a 58 mph wind gust or higher and/or one inch size hail or larger. That said, viewers in Calhoun County reported golf ball size hail (1.75″ in diameter), but that was NOT the largest.
According the Grand Rapids National Weather Service and their twitter page, 2.75″ size hail, or baseball size, was photographed and documented in/around Battle Creek from one of those storm cells on Saturday evening. A severe thunderstorm warning was in effect at the time. The photo attached to this story was courtesy of Jadon Carrasco via the NWS twitter feed.
Hail this size in Michigan is quite rare. Generally speaking, West Michigan tends to only see hail size reach about golf ball (1.75″). The last time West Michigan recorded baseball size hail was on July 4, 2012 in Mecosta County. It simply is very difficult to develop and sustain the continued vertical updrafts to experience hail that size in Michigan. What does that mean? In order for hail to grow to that size, strong vertical updrafts blowing from the ground upward (into the storm center) must be potent enough to support the weight of hail travelling up and down (in a vertical motion). These hailstones grow larger and larger within a storm over time…only until the vertical winds can support their size. When the hailstone becomes too large for the wind to support the size, the hail core (or hailstone) releases and falls to the ground.
We should also note that these types of hail sizes tend to occur more in tornado alley and the central/southern Plains. Parent storms in those geographic locations tend to billow up to 50 to 60 thousand feet, a distance that can more easily support large hail. On rare occasion, we record large hail stones here in West Michigan with lower top storms. Of course, there are other factors that can either support/not support hail, such as the height of the freezing level/line. That said, any baseball size hailstone would have to have very strong vertical winds within the storm blowing upward in order to support something that size.
Below is a list of hail size from the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma and the technical description of what each size actually relates to. All meteorologists stress the importance of measuring hail size, not estimating it. It’s always best to put something in the photo for reference purposes, such as a baseball, golf ball, quarter, etc., or perhaps an actual yardstick with the hailstone in the photo.
HAIL SIZE (in.)
OBJECT ANALOG REPORTED
Marble, moth ball
Walnut, ping pong
We also had more than 20,000 residents without power from these storms, especially across our southern counties, with some 60 to 65 mph wind gusts. By comparison, this week will be far more on the tranquil side with drier conditions and little/no severe weather threat. Our next rain chance arrives later on Tuesday and into Wednesday, but the remainder of the week appears dry and quiet.