How hail is formed and why South Florida may get hit by it today

A slight risk of small hail is forecast today with some of the strongest thunderstorms, which could include the king of all storms – supercells.


Supercell thunderstorms are characterized by a strong rotating column of air that works to suck warm moist air up into the subfreezing atmosphere.

All supercells are capable of producing hail. The size of the hail depends on the strength of the updraft – stronger updrafts can suspend frozen water droplets longer, allowing them to grow.

How much melt occurs when the hailstones fall to earth also impact size.

Forecasters today are noting that cloud tops are -10 degrees Celsius, which can increase updraft strength, especially if daytime highs get into the mid to upper 80s.


While large hail is unusual for South Florida, it does happen.

Between 1980 and September, Palm Beach County has seen hail with a diameter of 1.75 inches (about golf-ball size) 14 times, according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Events Database.

The most recent occurrence on record was on Feb. 24, 2010, when a trained weather service spotter recorded large hail west of Palm Beach International Airport during a thunderstorm that included 40 mph winds.

In late March 1996, hail damaged at least 100 vehicles at the airport and decimated a 60-acre cucumber field, according to the database.


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