The Transylvania Times -

By Matt McGregor
Staff Writer 

Hailstorm, Rain Bombard Brevard


April 11, 2019

Matt McGregor

Downtown Brevard was battered Tuesday afternoon by an unprecedented hailstorm.

A sudden, icy bombardment of hail clattered down on Brevard Tuesday, covering the ground in slippery slush, followed by a recorded 2.23 inches of rain to wash it away.

"I've never seen anything like this in the almost 50 years that I've lived here," said Brevard Mayor Jimmy Harris. "I've never heard such a racket in all my life. It tore up the signage in front of Harris Hardware."

He said city crews were out early Wednesday morning cleaning up with brush trucks and street sweepers, and with the large amount of water at one time, water drains had reached capacity.

"It was pretty catastrophic, and a lot of water came down at one time," he said. "It clearly tested the levels of our pipes. I looked at the radar and it looks like all the hail happened downtown."

Jake Wimberley, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service (NWS), said the storm itself began to form around 2 p.m., and at 2:15 p.m. the NWS received a report of a 1.5-inch hailstone.

"The storm continued to dump rain on Brevard until 3 p.m., and it started to taper off around 4:30, and the thunderstorm itself lasted about an hour," he said.

After looking through archives, he reported that Tuesday marked the 89th reported hailstorm in Transylvania County since 1970.

"All of these reports of hail are of at least three-quarters of an inch," he said. "Hail smaller than 1 inch occurs frequently enough around the country. The largest one I see in this data is baseball-size hail that occurred on June 24, 1986, and golf-ball sized hail reported in 2008 and 2011 in Transylvania County."

What made yesterday's hail unusual, he said, was the "large amount of small hail."

"The fact that there was hail was not unusual," he said.

He explained that hail forms in thunderstorms when the thunderstorm reaches "a certain amount of strength, so the storm grows to the extent that there is enough upward motion of wind within the storm that, if the updraft is strong enough, it can keep pieces of ice elevated, which can accumulate more moisture and rain, forming hail."

"The stronger the updraft, the stronger the air flowing into the storm, the larger the storm is able to suspend the hail," he said. "What happened (Tuesday) was that you had relatively cold temperatures aloft, cold air above the surface that we might not normally have, and we certainly won't have it like that later in the spring or summer. This is more of an early spring occurrence."

For a thunderstorm itself to form, warm air near the surface rises, and that's the same mechanism, he said, that produces a cumulus cloud "we would see on a nice day."

"The warm air near the surface that rises on its own rises because it is less dense than the air around it, so when that air gets high enough, it's able to cool, and the moisture condenses, forming a cloud," he said. "A thunderstorm is basically a cumulus cloud like that, and that air is really warm and moist and wants to rise really quickly. It's able to grow a lot taller than other clouds, and so that updraft, the upward motion of the air inside of the storm, is able to keep the hail suspended in the air, and when it's no longer able to hold the hail, it just drops straight down."

On average, hailstorms "may last a minute or two," he said. "But (Tuesday) it looked like hail had accumulated on the streets like sleet would. I saw one picture in which a dog had left footprints in the hail, and that struck me as the most unusual aspect of it. It was such a large amount of small hail."

Kevin Shook, the emergency management coordinator and communications director for Transylvania County, provided this report of incidents in the county Tuesday during the storm:

•Little River Fire Department responded to reports of Lines down at 621 Hudlin Gap Road at 2:22 p.m.

•Cashiers Valley Road was reported blocked by high water near Camp Keystone at 2:52 p.m.

•Brevard Fire Department (BFD) and Transylvania County Rescue responded to Bryson Road at 3:31 p.m. for two houses affected by flood waters.

One of the homes was initially thought to have someone in it, but that turned out not to be.

Courtesy Photo

On Wednesday morning, the hail was still visible behind the former Rice Furniture building in downtown.

BFD and Brevard Police Department (BPD) responded to a car stranded by flood waters at the intersection of Hillview Avenue and Hillview Circle at 3:50 p.m.

•Little River Fire Department and EMS responded to a motor vehicle accident on Everett Road at 3:55 p.m.

•The Transylvania County Sheriff's Office responded to a reported motor vehicle accident with no injury at the intersection of Island Ford Road and South Country Club Road at 4:01 p.m.

•Island Ford Road was reported blocked by high water in the area of 400 Island Ford Road at 4:04 p.m.

•The Sheriff's Office responded to a reported disabled motorist at 3617 Rosman Highway at 4:10 p.m.

•Island Ford Road was reported blocked by high water at 2047 Island Ford Road (river access) at 4:17 p.m.


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