DALLAS, Texas (The Blaze/AP) — It’s mid-April and the temperatures in Amarillo, Texas, have been reaching up into 80s this week. So, why were maintenance crews using snowplows to clear the roads Thursday? Turns out a severe, slow-moving and rather isolated storm pelted the area with several inches of hail, coupled with heavy rain that caused the small pellets of ice to form drifts as high as 4 feet.
Some motorists were trapped in muddy drifts that were waist-to-shoulder high.
“It was crazy,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Justyn Jackson said about the strange storm, which hit Wednesday afternoon. The hail was “real small” but there was a lot of it in a concentrated area, accumulating 2- to 4-feet deep, he said.
Some reports include skeptics saying the pictures of the hail piles look fake, but NOAA clarifies in a statement that feet of hail were not merely dropped in one place but pushed along due to flooding to form the waist-high drifts.
Watch this raw footage of the storm:
The rural area where the storm struck was mainly ranch land, about 25 miles north of Amarillo and south of Dumas. Rainwater gushed across the parched land, washing dirt and then mud into the hail, pushing it all onto U.S. 287, Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas said.
“There were just piles of hail,” said Maribel Martinez with the Amarillo/Potter/Randall Office of Emergency Management. “Some of the cars were just buried in hail and people were trapped in their cars.”
The southbound lane of the highway, which was shut down around 5 p.m. Wednesday, finally reopened early Thursday morning, shortly after midnight though water remained on the road until around 5 a.m., said Paul Braun, a Texas Department of Transportation spokesman in Amarillo.
MSNBC reports some skeptics of the hail saying they just looked like piles of mud or that the quality of the photos hinted at a hoax, but Krissy Scotten, a spokeswoman for the weather service office in Amarillo, said the dark color of the piles is due to it being “very dusty around here,” which colored the hail as it fell. Here’s more from skeptics and Scotten’s response:
“Serious do not think this is 100% hail!!!” commented one person.
“It’s a lite dusting of hail on some damn rocks,” said another person, referring to the image of a firefighter standing next to what could be taken for boulders.
“I can assure you we do not have big rocks like that in West Texas,” Krissy Scotten, a spokeswoman for the weather service office in Amarillo, told msnbc.com.
“That was 4 feet of ice” that was compacted by rain and floodwater across a wide area, she added.
Emergency received several swift-water rescue calls as the road was flooded in low-lying areas. Rural fences and vehicles also suffered hail damage but there were no reported injuries.
Braun said work crews stayed in roadside ditches Thursday afternoon diligently trying to break up the ice jams and debris that had fused together and prevented drainage.
“We’ve got five, 6-foot high icebergs along the roadway,” Braun said. “If we get another rainstorm it will flood again.”
But the National Weather Service said it’s starting to clear up and should be a sunny weekend.
“That’s a good thing since it will take a few days for that hail to melt,” said Andrew Moulton, an NWS meteorologist in Amarillo.
Check out the NWS Facebook profile for more pictures of the flooding and hail here.