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Skylight Sales, Inc.
8049 Monetary Dr. #C4
West Palm Beach
Florida 33404
OFFICE: 561-776-2815
FAX: 561-776-1417

Hailstorm Pummels Daytona

Staff Writer

May 05, 2005

DAYTONA BEACH -- For about a minute Wednesday morning, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University officials thought they were reliving Hurricane Charley.
The sudden onslaught of hail that pelted the Daytona Beach area just before 9 a.m. when the skies opened up did about as much damage on Riddle's training airplanes as Charley did last fall, said ERAU spokesman Jim Hampton.

"And it all took about a minute," Hampton said. "We had pingpong ball-sized hail. It also damaged most of the cars in our parking lot."

A strong cell of thunderstorms that swept through the area was blamed for up to 3 inches of hail along the U.S. 92 corridor, damaging planes, automobiles and gardens and littering roadsides with the small icy pebbles. Later in the day, tornado warnings were posted in Volusia County as heavy thunderstorms moved through the area.

The weather systems which are mostly responsible for creating hail also included powerful updrafts, said meteorologist Bob Wimmer of the National Weather Service in Melbourne.

N-J/Jim Tiller
A Votran bus heads south on Beach Street in Daytona Beach as a hailstorm pelts the area Wednesday morning. A strong thunderstorm cell dumped about 3 inches of hail on the area, most of it along U.S. 92 between Daytona Beach and DeLand.
Because of the persistent updrafts in the center of the storms, the hail showers lasted up to two minutes in certain areas, Wimmer said.

"We received reports that the hail was golf ball-size and mostly in the area of U.S. 92 between DeLand and Daytona Beach," Wimmer said. "There was about 3 inches of hail in the grass off of U.S. 92 in certain sections of the highway."

Hail was also reported in Leesburg and several other areas north of Interstate 4, Wimmer said.

While hail does not accompany every thunderstorm, it may occur, especially in the spring, when storms form in an entire region, Wimmer said.

Wednesday's messy weather originated from a moist, unstable atmosphere and strong currents of air moving at 25,000 feet, Wimmer said. An upward motion in the atmosphere from southwest to northeast was also fueling a warm front.

The early afternoon hours brought tornado warnings for the southeastern part of Volusia County which included Ponce Inlet, New Smyrna Beach and Port Orange.

Daytona Beach received 3.33 inches of rain Wednesday, a record for the day, said John Pendergrast of the National Weather Service in Melbourne.

Chances of rain are expected to be about 60 percent today and about 20 percent Friday, Wimmer said.

"The weekend is actually looking good," he said.

But not so at ERAU, where 38 of the 40 single-engine Cessna 172 planes lost skylights, Hampton said. At least 10 twin-engine aircraft were damaged as well, sustaining dings and dents from the hail.

"We have no exact estimate on the damage, but its going to be in the thousands," Hampton said. "Two of the single-engine planes weren't damaged because one was in the air and the other was in a hangar."

Mechanics at the college told Hampton that each single-engine plane damaged in the storm would require eight hours of repairs.

Phoenix East Aviation, a flight school near ERAU on Pearl Harbor Drive, also got its share of hail.

The school closed early Wednesday afternoon after several of its 25 training planes were dented and at least two sustained broken windows from the hail, said staff member Chris McGrath.

For some auto owners, the onslaught of hail left dimpled car finishes.

State Farm received about 60 hail-damage claims Wednesday in the Daytona Beach area, mostly from motorists, while Progressive Insurance reported 37 claims, and Allstate tallied "several dozen," company officials reported. State Farm also had about 130 other hail claims come in from other parts of the state.

Motorists who encounter hail should try to get their vehicles under cover or at least to the shelter of an overpass, if one is nearby, said AAA spokesman Matt Nasworthy.

"However, they should worry more about protecting themselves than protecting their vehicles," Nasworthy said. It's better to pull over and let the vehicle take a pounding than to speed up in an effort to outrace the storm, he said.

At a house a few blocks east of the flight schools, on Aleatha Drive, Jean Adam was assessing the damage left behind in her yard. While Adam's losses were not as colossal, they were painful just the same.

"Most of my flowers were beaten down," Adam said. "All my gazing balls were busted and they're in hundreds of pieces all over the flower beds.

"I'm from Missouri and I'm used to tornadoes and hail. I never expected to see anything like this in Florida," Adam said.