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4 feet of hail in Texas? Reports, photos cause quite a storm

Devin Singleton / KAMR

Meltwater rushes past hail several feet thick on Wednesday off Highway 287 north of Amarillo, Texas.

Sure, everything's bigger in Texas. But 4 feet of hail from one storm? That's what the National Weather Service, the Texas Department of Transportation, a local sheriff and others say happened Wednesday in an area north of Amarillo when hail piled up in drifts so wide they cut off a major highway.

The National Weather Service office in Amarillo even posted a photo on its Facebook page, but that wasn't enough to convince skeptics.

"Serious do not think this is 100% hail!!!" commented one person.


"It's a lite dusting of hail on some damn rocks," said another person, referring to the image of a firefighter standing next to what could be taken for boulders.

Potter County Fire Department via NWS

The National Weather Service's office in Amarillo, Texas, posted this photo Wednesday night of a firefighter standing next to deep hail.

"I can assure you we do not have big rocks like that in West Texas," Krissy Scotten, a spokeswoman for the weather service office in Amarillo, told msnbc.com.

"That was 4 feet of ice" that was compacted by rain and floodwater across a wide area, she added.

"It was actually the rain/water that caused the drifts," Scotten said. "Anytime you have hail accumulate 2 to 4 feet high and get over three inches of rain, no matter how it occurs, it's pretty incredible."

As for the darkish color, "we're very dusty around here" due to drought so the hail quickly darkened, Scotten said. 

The image, she added, was sent by the Potter County Fire Department and Matt Dryden, the firefighter seen in it, is standing where meltwater had cut through the hail.

"It was like rivers of hail," Dryden told msnbc.com. "It looked like icebergs coming across the highway."

The Texas Department of Transportation confirms it was deep hail dumped by a storm that dropped visibility to near-zero at times.

Texas Department of Transportation

This highway webcam image was taken at 4:10 p.m. local time Wednesday and shows hail on Highway 287.

"Heavy rain and up to 4 ft of hail has US 287 blocked north of Amarillo," it tweeted Wednesday afternoon.

The local sheriff concurred as well.

"You're looking at four foot deep" hail in one stretch, NBC affiliate KAMR-TV quoted Brian Thomas, sheriff of Potter County, as saying. "This was just one of those weird storms that just sat here and came down extremely heavy in this one area."

Amarillo TV station Pronews 7 even shot video of flash flooding triggered by the pea-sized hail and several inches of rain.

"It looked like soap suds," said Pronews 7 meteorologist Steve Kersh. "The storm was moving really slow and a combination of the pea-sized hail and four to six inches of rain created those conditions."

KAMR-TV reported that snow plows were called out to clear roads. Highway 287 was shut down for hours after the storm due to the cleanup.

Several vehicles got stuck in the flash flooding, and two feet of water also swamped a stretch of Highway 136, the weather service reported. One Chevy Tahoe, a large SUV, got stuck in hail up to its hood, Scotten said.

Krissy Scotten / National Weather Service

Covered in dust, this hail drift measured six feet high on April 12 and was still intact a day after it formed near Dumas, Texas, the National Weather Service said.

The pea-sized hailstones weren't big enough to set any size records, and Scotten said the service doesn't keep records for most hail in a given period.

But Jose Garcia, chief forecaster at the weather service in Amarillo, told msnbc.com it probably wasn't the most hail the region has seen.

"Five to 6 feet deep hail" fell in nearby Dalhart, Texas, in 1993 during a very similar storm, he said. It took almost a month for some roads to reopen as the compact ice melted slowly. "It was almost like huge snow drifts," he said.

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