What the hail: How common are hail storms in Central Florida?

The largest hailstone ever recorded in Florida was 4.5″

Videos, pictures show hail larger than a quarter raining down across Central Florida

ORLANDO, Fla. – With Florida being known for its heat and humidity, most people would think large hail throughout the state is pretty unusual. But surprisingly, Florida actually has a hail season.

The best chance to see hail in Florida is from March to July with the peak occurring in May. If you notice, these hail events tend to happen in late winter or spring, when it is typically cooler above the surface.

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Over the past decade, the National Weather Service in Melbourne, Florida has received almost 300 hail reports, with the average size being about one inch in diameter, or quarter-sized.

[LATEST HAIL STORM: VIDEO, PICS: Hail storm pelts Central Florida]

The record for the Sunshine State still stands at 4.5 inches. This grapefruit-sized hail has been observed on three occasions in Florida—March 1996 in Polk County, March 2003 in Bradford County and May 2007 in Marion County.

Most recently, our largest hail report came from Sanford in May 2020, when a strong storm pelted Seminole County with 3 inch, or teacup-sized, hailstones. According the weather service, this report tied the record for the largest hailstone in east Central Florida,

Comparing hail size to common objects. The hail that fell in Sanford Thursday evening was about the size of a tea cup or large apple. This puts it in the exceptionally rare category, especially for Florida standards. Hail becomes severe when it is 1" in diameter or larger.

How does hail form?

Thunderstorms are made up of updrafts and downdrafts. The updraft is the rising air within the thunderstorm and the downdraft is the downward moving air, eventually producing the gusty winds we feel on the ground as well as damage, if strong enough.

Hail forms in thunderstorms with intense updrafts. The updraft forces rain high into the thunderstorm where the air is below freezing. The rain drops and freezes becoming ice.

Hail forms in an intense thunderstorm updrafts. The updraft forces rain high into the thunderstorm where the air is below freezing. The rain drops freeze becoming ice. If the updraft is strong enough, the newly-formed hail stone cycles through the storm and grows. The hail stone forms layers bu colliding with supercooled water, water that remains in the liquid state even though temperatures are below freezing. Once the stone is too heavy, gravity allows it fall to the ground. The strong the thunderstorm updraft, the larger the hail.

If the updraft is strong enough, the newly-formed hailstone cycles through the storm and grows. The hailstone forms layers by colliding with water and supercooled water, water that remains in the liquid state even though temperatures are below freezing.

If the updraft is strong enough, the newly-formed hail stone cycles through the storm and grows. The hail stone forms layers by colliding with supercooled water, water that remains in the liquid state even though temperatures are below freezing.

Once the hailstone becomes too heavy to be supported by the thunderstorm updraft, it falls to the ground. The more intense the thunderstorm updraft, the larger the hail typically is. Oftentimes, hail can look like onions with multiple layers. This is more evident if you cut the stone in half.

When looking at the clear sections, the air was below freezing, but not extremely cold. The water spreads out over the stone and slowly freezes. Air bubbles are allowed to escape making the ice clear.

When the ice is cloudy, the air temperature where the ice formed is well below freezing, oftentimes locking in air bubbles because the water froze so fast. This leaves the ice more cloudy.

If you count the number of cloudy and clear rings or layers, you can estimate how many trips the stone made within the thunderstorm.

Once the hail stone becomes to heavy to be supported by the thunderstorm updraft, it falls to the ground. The more intense the thunderstorm updraft, the larger the hail typically is.

About the Authors:

Candace joined the News 6 team as the weekend morning meteorologist and reporter. She comes to Central Florida from Miami.

Jonathan Kegges joined the News 6 team in June 2019 as the Weekend Morning Meteorologist. Jonathan comes from Roanoke, Virginia where he covered three EF-3 tornadoes and deadly flooding brought on by Hurricanes Florence and Michael.