KSN Storm Track 3 Digital Extra: Explaining a persistent large hail threat in the heart of a heated August

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – There has been a common theme among severe thunderstorms since last weekend: hail. And I am talking about large hail!

Saturday, August 7, severe weather that afternoon kicked off with a storm producing tennis ball size hail (2.5″ in diameter) in Tribune (Greeley County). For a storm to be classified as severe when it comes to hail, it has to at least be the size of quarters. We had additional large hail reports occur that evening in western Kansas ranging from golf ball to egg size.

Two inch in diameter hail reported north of Loretta in Rush County Tuesday evening

Tuesday evening, August 10, a severe storm exploded over Rush County. It was one of only a handful of severe storms this evening. This specific storm continued to track to the northeast, picking up steam, and dropping hail along the way. According to local storm reports into the KSN Storm Track 3 weather center, this storm traveled for more than 100 miles within our viewing area alone! In its path, it produced golf ball size hail. It eventually maxed out north of Ashervile in Mitchell County with pieces of baseball size hail!

How is this possible? We hit highs in the 90s and triple digits this day. About two-thirds of the state was placed under a Heat Advisory as heat indices ranged from 103° to 110°. We have to look thousands of feet up into the air! These severe thunderstorms, according to our volumetric scan on radar, had cloud tops between 50,000 to 60,000 feet above the ground! Truly a mature storm!

Typically as you climb in the lower level of the atmosphere where weather happens, known as the troposphere, the temperature drops. As tall as those storms reached into the sky, we were dealing with temperatures well below freezing. You combine those below freezing temperatures with a powerful updraft, that storm holds onto that piece of ice for a long time while it collides with other supercooled water droplets.

Once it gets heavy enough, that hailstone will fall to the ground. Goes to show you how much cold air we have aloft above our heads in August!

The unfortunate side of this, farmers are reaching the finishing line when it comes to corn. Any rain is beneficial, but the hail we have had over the last week has been a crop killer for select Kansans.

–Chief Meteorologist Lisa Teachman

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