...Damaging Winds and Hail...
written by NWS Brownsville


TEXAS IS AFFECTED BY THOUSANDS OF THUNDERSTORMS EVERY SINGLE YEAR. 
HOWEVER...THE MOST DANGEROUS THUNDERSTORMS ARE CLASSIFIED AS SEVERE
AND OCCUR MAINLY IN THE SPRING AND FALL. SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS CAN 
PRODUCE DAMAGING WINDS...LARGE HAIL AND TORNADOES. A THUNDERSTORM IS 
DEFINED AS SEVERE WHEN IT PRODUCES WINDS OF AT LEAST 58 MPH...HAIL 
3/4 OF AN INCH IN DIAMETER OR LARGER...OR A TORNADO. 

SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER ABOUT THUNDERSTORM WINDS IS THAT NOT 
ALL DAMAGING THUNDERSTORM WINDS ARE TORNADIC. THUNDERSTORMS ARE 
CAPABLE OF PRODUCING EQUALLY DESTRUCTIVE AND LIFE-THREATENING 
THUNDERSTORM WINDS...COMMONLY REFERRED TO AS STRAIGHT LINE WINDS. 
STRAIGHT LINE WINDS REFER TO WINDS THAT ARE NOT ASSOCIATED WITH 
ROTATING WINDS IN A TORNADO. RATHER...THEY MOVE FORWARD ALONG THE 
GROUND IN UNIDIRECTIONAL FASHION. LINES OF THUNDERSTORMS THAT DEVELOP 
ACROSS TEXAS CAN PRODUCE STRAIGHT LINE WIND SPEEDS IN EXCESS OF 100 
MPH. 

ANOTHER TYPE OF STRAIGHT LINE WIND...THE DOWNBURST...IS A STRONG 
DOWNDRAFT OF AIR IN A SINGLE THUNDERSTORM THAT ACCELERATES DOWNWARD 
AND PRODUCES AN OUT-RUSH OF DAMAGING WIND ON OR NEAR THE GROUND. TWO 
TYPES OF DOWNBURSTS EXIST... MICROBURSTS AND MACROBURSTS. THE 
MICROBURST...IS SHORT-LIVED AND OF GREAT CONCERN TO THE AVIATION 
COMMUNITY. IT PRODUCES STRONG WINDS IN AN AREA LESS THAN 2.5 MILES IN 
DIAMETER. IN CONTRAST...MACROBURSTS ARE LONGER-LIVED AND CAPABLE OF 
PRODUCING EXTENSIVE WIND DAMAGE ACROSS AREAS LARGER THAN 2.5 MILES IN 
DIAMETER.

STRAIGHT LINE THUNDERSTORM WINDS OCCASIONALLY CAN REACH SPEEDS IN 
EXCESS OF 100 MPH. THESE TYPES OF WINDS ARE INTENSE ENOUGH TO UPROOT 
TREES AND PRODUCE SUBSTANTIAL DAMAGE...IF NOT COMPLETE DESTRUCTION... 
TO BUILDINGS. IF THESE WINDS OCCUR IN CONJUNCTION WITH LARGE HAIL... 
EVEN MORE EXTREME DAMAGE CAN OCCUR...SUCH AS CAUSING HOLES IN THE 
SIDES AND ROOFS OF HOUSES, OR DESTROYING CROPS AND OTHER VEGETATION.  

HAIL THAT IS PENNY SIZE (3/4 INCH IN DIAMETER) OR LARGER IS 
CONSIDERED SEVERE. HAIL IS DEFINED AS PRECIPITATION IN THE FORM OF 
LUMPS OR CHUNKS OF ICE THAT DEVELOP IN SOME THUNDERSTORMS. HAIL CAN 
RANGE IN SIZE FROM PEA SIZE (1/4 INCH) TO GREATER THAN SOFTBALL SIZE 
(4.5 INCHES). HAILSTONES ARE USUALLY OVAL SHAPED OR ROUND...BUT CAN 
BE SPIKY IN APPEARANCE. THE LARGEST HAILSTONE ON RECORD IN THE UNITED 
STATES FELL AT AURORA NEBRASKA...ON JUNE 22 2003. THE MASSIVE STONE 
MEASURED 18.75 INCHES IN CIRCUMFERENCE AND OVER 7 INCHES IN DIAMETER.

HAIL FALLS TO EARTH AT SPEEDS APPROACHING 100 MPH AND AS A 
RESULT...CAN PRODUCE IMMENSE DAMAGE TO BUILDINGS...AUTOMOBILES AND 
VEGETATION. ANNUALLY...HAIL STORMS CAUSE MORE THAN ONE BILLION 
DOLLARS IN DAMAGE ACROSS THE ENTIRE UNITED STATES.  NO PART OF TEXAS 
IS IMMUNE TO THE DANGERS OF LARGE HAIL AND ALTHOUGH IT IS RARELY 
FATAL...IT INJURES SEVERAL DOZENS OF PEOPLE EACH YEAR.

THERE ARE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR 
PROPERTY FROM THE DANGERS ASSOCIATED WITH DAMAGING THUNDERSTORM WINDS 
AND HAIL. KEEP ABREAST OF THE LATEST WEATHER CONDITIONS TO AVOID 
BEING CAUGHT IN A SEVERE STORM. MONITORING WEATHER RADIO FROM THE 
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE AS WELL AS TELEVISION, RADIO...AND INTERNET 
INFORMATION WILL ALSO HELP KEEP YOU INFORMED OF MANY OF THE 
APPROACHING STRAIGHT LINE WIND OR HAIL EVENTS IN YOUR AREA.

TREAT STRAIGHT LINE WIND EVENTS THE SAME AS YOU WOULD AN APPROACHING 
TORNADO.  SEEK SHELTER IN A REINFORCED SHELTER...ON THE LOWEST FLOOR 
IN AN INTERIOR BATHROOM OR CLOSET...AWAY FROM ALL WINDOWS.  ALWAYS 
COVER YOUR HEAD TO PROTECT AGAINST THE IMPACT OF FLYING DEBRIS THAT 
CAN INJURE. IF YOU ENCOUNTER HAIL WHILE DRIVING...TURN AROUND. YOU 
MAY BE DRIVING INTO THE CORE OF A THUNDERSTORM WHERE TORNADOES FORM. 
REPORT IT TO LAW ENFORCEMENT AS SOON AS IT IS SAFE TO DO SO AND SEEK 
AN ALTERNATE ROUTE.

USA.gov is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.