Hail is one of several phenomena I like to pursuit when storm observing.  I usually do so when the threat for a tornado is relatively minimal and the storm structure isn't good enough to put some distance between me and the hail shaft.  When I encounter hail greater then 2 inches in diameter, I call it in to the local National Weather Service Office.


060505-2b.jpg (45223 bytes)      060505-7b.jpg (41622 bytes)      Multi-Image shots of the variety of hail we got in West Texas on May 5, 2006.  We found a unique spiked hail stone as well.
060505-3b.jpg (54618 bytes)      060505-5b.jpg (55788 bytes)      060505-6b.jpg (53861 bytes)      Large hail stones covering the ground in West Texas on May 5, 2006.
060608-15b.jpg (56026 bytes)      Hail impaled the ground in Eastern Montana, leaving holes in the ground.
030602-1b.jpg (26148 bytes)     030602-3b.jpg (36077 bytes)     030602-4b.jpg (35687 bytes)     Hail storms can make a gorgeous scene out of an otherwise bleak landscape.  This was taken on June 1st, 2003, while we looked southeast on the backside of a storm in eastern New Mexico.  The hail was small on this particular day, however, it still made our day quite successful.
050607-22b.jpg (30897 bytes)      An interesting hail stone that fell 30 minutes prior to finding it.  It fell near Kodak, South Dakota, on June 7, 2005.  Note the small thin spike and clear coating.
030603-1b.jpg (32946 bytes)     030603-2b.jpg (37662 bytes)     030603-3b.jpg (50416 bytes)     This is a hail storm in progress with the right hand image showing some of the stones we collected when the hail subsided.  Notice the soft cloudy center with a hard thick coating around it.  This thick clear coating allowed the stones to fall and hit the ground without breaking, allowing the stone to do more damage to crops and property.  These stones were collected on June 3, 2003, in Eastern New Mexico.
050514-3b.jpg (29935 bytes)      050514-2b.jpg (37247 bytes)      Small hail covering the ground west of Tucumcari, New Mexico, on May 14, 2005.
030405-10b.jpg (10454 bytes)     Here is another image showing the ring structure of several hail stones that fell near Graford, TX, on April 5, 2003.  These stones were probably 3 - 4 inches in diameter, however, they melted into disk shapes allowing the physical structure to be seen.
050527-4b.jpg (27958 bytes)      030523-3b.jpg (11793 bytes)      Quarter to golf ball sized hail pounding vehicles as they travel west on I-40 near Santa Rosa, New Mexico.  Image was taken on May 27, 2005.
030523-4b.jpg (7556 bytes)     Scott Blair shows a handful of golf ball hail near Moses, New Mexico, which is 5 miles from the Texas border.  When we called in this report we had to come up with a different town to show our proximity since nobody knew where Moses was.  We also called the National Weather Service in Amarillo, Texas, since the storm was heading into their CWA, however, the storm quickly died shortly after crossing the border.
030405-9b.JPG (12174 bytes)     Very large hail fell near Woodson, TX on April 5, 2003.   Meteorologist Steve Vanderburg showing off some of the large stones.   Unfortunately when the bigger stuff was falling we were not able to get out and collect it since our lives would have been in danger.  During the peak we had stones exceeding 4 inches in diameter.   One of those stones you see on the left hand image came through the side window, making collection of hail a little easier that day!
040601-6b.jpg (35791 bytes)      040601-7b.jpg (38924 bytes)      060505-23b.jpg (37564 bytes)      The results of large hail on a chase vehicles.
040610-22b.jpg (29996 bytes)      Hail of various shapes and sizes from a tornadic supercell in the Nebraska Panhandle.  Notice again, some of these are cloudy and soft, others are clear and rock hard.
020505-10b.jpg (19051 bytes)     020505-11b.jpg (18450 bytes)     Prior to the May 5, 2002 Happy, TX tornado, we received tennis ball to baseball sized hail on the western edge of the supercell.  We got out when the hail subsided and took some pictures of the rainbow to the east.  The right hand image shows Dave Fick holding a tennis ball sized hail stone.  We were having a hail streak that week with our front window breaking on May 4th near Midland, TX, May 5th south of Amarillo, TX, and May 6th east of Newton, KS.
020527-1b.jpg (24019 bytes)     020527-2b.jpg (25010 bytes)     This is some of the most interesting hail I have ever seen.  Many of these stones had a bunch of clear spikes on them.  This is most likely caused by the stone spinning while aloft, with enough centrifugal force to cause these icicle like spikes.  This hail occurred on May 27, 2002 south of Ralls, TX.
020506v-1b.jpg (20687 bytes)     This is an interesting set of hail stones that occurred in Eastern Kansas on May 6, 2002.   Some of these were completely cloudy and soft, others almost completely clear and very strong.  Such a diverse group of hail stones leads me to believe this storm was an equal opportunity hail producer!


Lightning is something I shoot year round giving conditions are favorable.  My favorite time to shoot lightning is after the passage of an MCS where both unobstructed CG's and anvil crawlers are usually seen.   Behind MCS's after the rain stops, ceilings are usually high, thus giving you a great view of any lightning that occurs.  My best lightning is shot when it's extremely close, which makes taking pictures of this phenomena much more dangerous then anything else I do related to storm observing.  To mitigate any danger, I try to shoot lightning with a window camera mount, thus allowing me to shoot stills in "bulb" mode while inside my vehicle.
030812-1b.jpg (4880 bytes)    While visiting family I decided to try my luck at capturing a lightning bolt during frequent heavy bursts of rainfall.  I managed to get one, however slightly off-center, still turned out great!  I hope to print out this image and send it to the owner of the home across the street.  Taken on August 12, 2003 during a stormy summer night in Texas.
000000-16b.jpg (23048 bytes)    000000-17b.jpg (22985 bytes)     000000-18b.jpg (23832 bytes)     000000-19b.jpg (20617 bytes)     This is some very close lightning near my home in Norman, Oklahoma.  It was close enough that I didn't want to risk getting a better shot out in the field in front of my house.  I'm near my back door taking this shot while I stand inside the house.  This was taken in October of 2000.
050518-2b.jpg (23679 bytes)      050518-5b.jpg (30115 bytes)      Lightning was quite a show east of Emporia, Kansas, on May 18, 2005.
010524-2b.jpg (10408 bytes)      On the backside of an MCS near Rock Spring, Texas, on May 24, 2001.  After driving through steep canyons on the western edge of the Central Texas foothills near the Mexican border, we turned north to head home.  We luckily were greeted by an MCS that had some very active lightning.
010908-5b.jpg (11836 bytes)      This particular shot doesn't seem to demonstrate the lightning as much as it does the cloud structure lit up by the bolts.  It sort of gives the images some action as you can see the cloud streaks since these clouds were all in motion.  This was taken on September 8, 2001.

Many of these images appear in the photo book
Adventures in Tornado Alley: The Storm Chasers
by Mike Hollingshead and Eric Nguyen (now available)


Last Update: 06/10/08