Last week’s freakish storms that dumped egg-sized ice chunks in Indialantic generated the most significant hailstorm event in Brevard County recorded history, the National Weather Service has determined.
The morning of March 27, these extraordinary storms swept in from east of Christmas across the Space Coast, intensifying as they tracked to the southeast.
Hail the size of nickels and quarters fell for up to 10 minutes across portions of Canaveral Groves, Cocoa, Rockledge, Merritt Island and Satellite Beach, a NWS event summary states.
The largest confirmed hailstones measured as large as hen eggs (2 inches in diameter) and golf balls (1.75 inches in diameter), primarily pummeling the Indialantic area.
“I think the most noteworthy thing about this particular event is, we had two hailstorms that occurred — and followed almost the same track. The second one occurred about an hour after the first one,” said Scott Spratt, warning coordination meteorologist at the NWS station at Orlando Melbourne International Airport.
“So many of the areas that experienced hail — and even some of the large and damaging hail — had a second round of hail occur about an hour after the first one, causing additional damages. Which is extremely unusual,” Spratt said.
“When we’ve seen big hail events like this one before across east-central Florida, the individual storms are spaced out so the same areas aren’t receiving multiple rounds of hail,” he said.
Falling hailstones shattered windows, dented vehicles, damaged roofs and ripped up screened pool enclosures in hard-hit zones. Spratt said the NWS office fielded “many, many dozen” phone calls from storm spotters and alarmed residents.
A 54 mph wind gust was recorded at Patrick Air Force Base. In some spots, Spratt said hail accumulated in such quantity that it took more than an hour to melt.
“In terms of the area that was impacted — from the Orange County line all the way to the coast — and the fact that there were two storms occurring across that area, it likely was the most significant documented hailstorm in Brevard County’s history,” Spratt said.
Record-keeping at the Melbourne NWS station dates to 1950. Six other Brevard storms have produced hailstones measuring at least 2 inches in diameter:
• April 1991: Southern Brevard (2 inches)
• June 1996: Lake Poinsett near Cocoa-Rockledge (2 inches)
• March 2003: Melbourne Beach (2.5 inches)
• April 2003: West Melbourne (2 inches)
• February 2007: Kennedy Space Center (2 inches)
• March 2011: June Park near West Melbourne (2 inches)
The 2007 KSC hailstorm was the most noteworthy. Hailstones punched roughly 2,500 divots and dents into the orange insulation covering space shuttle Atlantis’ external fuel tank at Launch Complex 39A — triggering a three-month launch delay.
Spratt said Central Florida hailstorms typically occur during March and April.