THE FORT WORTH, TEXAS HAILSTORM
by Tim Marshall
from Storm Track
© Copyright 1995 Tim Marshall
Mayfest is a celebration held each year in downtown Fort Worth where local artists display their crafts. There is plenty of food, entertainment, and souvenirs. On May 5th, 1995, the evening was warm and muggy with a stiff wind out of the southeast. Patrons walked around the fair unaware that mother nature was cooking up a little entertainment of her own with plenty of souvenirs to spare!
Approximately 10,000 people were in attendance that night when a ferocious hailstorm struck. Like a scene from a "Batman" movie, a great evil crashed the party. Many people caught in the open were stoned by baseball-size hail as they ran for cover. Parents cowered over their children as fist size stones propelled at 80 mph hit them in the backs, necks, heads, and arms causing three inch welts. Other parents became separated from their children in the melee. Miraculously, no one was killed by the hail. Nost people escaped to their cars for shelter. However, hail shattered the car windows and persons inside were showered with glass shards along with the hail.
The cause of one of the most destructive hailstorms in recent history was an HP supercell which developed suddenly ahead of and near the cresent of a fast moving bow echo. The supercell died as quickly as it formed when it was engulfed by the advancing bow echo. The supercell was around long enough to produce baseball-size hail across a wide swath (about 50 miles long and 10 miles wide) in southern and central Tarrant County. Personally, I have never seen a supercell form in such a manner right in front of a bow echo. The upper air sounding from Fort Worth that evening showed a perfect environment for HP storms: sharp directional shear in the lowest layers, somewhat weak mid-level winds, and strong upper level winds (see below).
Earlier in the day, Carson Eads and myself headed west of Fort Worth and met the bow echo in Palo Pinto County. That county was placed under a severe thunderstorm warning at 6 pm. As the bow echo moved east, it accelerated and intensified. We encountered golfball-size hail just before the storm moved into Parker County. The hail cracked Carsons windshield; he was not pleased.
The bow echo quickly passed us and we found ourselves heading eastbound on I-20 in pursuit. As we approached Weatherford, Texas, we began hearing reports of a severe hailstorm in Annetta in south- east Parker County. The hail covered the ground and stripped leaves off trees. The HP storm moved east-northeast into more popluated areas. As the storm crossed the interstate ahead of us, we began hearing reports of cars stopping on the road causing a massive traffic jam and gridlock. Common sense prevailed and we decided to avoid "core punching" and headed around the north side of Fort Uorth.
Among the damages: over one hundred of the cities police cars were undriveable; every skylight was broken at the main library and city hall; a 9 month old male gibbon was killed at the zoo. During the height of the storm, 911 lines were jammed.
At least 14 people were killed by the storm. Most people drowned while attempting to cross flooded roads. Several children died while playing around drainage culverts. Two people died when a roof collapsed when the roof was overloaded with rainwater.
SOUNDING FOR FORT WORTH, 00z 5/5/95