Christmas in July? Several inches of hail coated Geneva, NY, USA

Pea-sized hail fell in and around Geneva this morning, looking more like several inches of lake-effect snow.

While residents were surprised to see it, a hail storm like this one is pretty common, said National Weather Service meteorologist Kat Hawley.

“It’s definitely nothing out of the ordinary,” Hawley said. “It’s just a small thunderstorm.”

Hawley said the fact that the hail fell in the morning rather than the afternoon could have caught people off guard. But that also meant that air temperatures were a little cooler, which allowed the hail to accumulate rather than melt away quickly.

“Most of the time that hail would melt,” she said. “It’s just kind of cool enough where the hail managed to stay as ice.”

how hail forms.JPG
Hail forms from upward and downward motion of air in a thunderstorm
Hail forms inside thunderstorms. Air pushes water up and down in the storm, and the water can freeze into hail. If the tiny hail pellet gets pushed up and down repeatedly in the storm, it grows larger with each layer of water it picks up.

(The largest hailstone ever recorded was 7 inches in diameter and weighed just under one pound. It fell in Nebraska on June 23, 2003.)

The atmosphere in the Finger Lakes this morning was just right for hail, Hawley said, with colder, dry air high in the atmosphere and drafts of air pushing the water up and down.

“We just happened to have all the right ingredients,” she said.

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