Understanding hail and wind threats in Mid-Michigan

Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 7:16 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - As we welcome the arrival of spring, Mid-Michigan residents are reminded of the potential danger that comes with the season - severe storms.

Hailstones are ice balls that form in the updraft of a storm. To be considered severe, they must have a diameter greater than one inch. The largest hailstone ever found in the United States was a massive eight inches, discovered in Vivian, South Dakota. Household items such as ping pong balls or quarters are often used to measure hailstones that are considered severe. The larger the hailstones, the rarer they become.

Hail forms when water droplets freeze into small balls of ice and are carried higher into the thunderstorm cloud by the storm’s updraft. As the ice balls are lifted higher, they grow in size as more water freezes onto them. Eventually, they become too heavy for the updraft to support, and they fall back down to the ground due to the force of gravity.

In addition to hail, winds are another potential threat during severe storms. For winds to be considered severe, they must reach speeds of 58 MPH or greater. Often, these are downdrafts from thunderstorms, which are the opposite flow of the updrafts that form hail. Gust fronts and straight-line winds can also meet the severe criteria.

Stay informed and stay safe during this year’s severe weather season by downloading the free News 10 First Alert Weather App.

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