Key West All Time Record Hail
 April 27, 2003

"The Conch Tour Train ride from Hail" is the title of this image. At precisely 3:58:32pm local time these tourist realized that it is starting to hail.  (Click on images for a blowup). While thehail I saw was not the 1.75 inch size reported near the airport by the Key West Weather Service Office (WSO), it definitely had folks running for cover.  This was one of many Conch Tour Trains caught in the surprise afternoonhail storm that set a record for largest hail in Key West since records have been kept at the Weather Service Office.

The image of the hail on the far right was supplied by Chip Kasper of the WSO.  The quick thinking meteorologistquickly set up a shot with a tape measure and quarter for scale.  That piece on the right looks about 1.5 incheslong.  Wow!  Hail is very rare in Key West and 1.75 inch ice is extremely rare.  

So I thought the 1.75 inch hail was tops . . . that was until the local Key West paper Solares Hill came out with a photo showing even bigger hail.  I called the editor Mark Howell and he let me use the photo of hail that fell down on near 11th Street in Key West taken by Barbara Durland.  Mark and his wife Jan wisely collected the hail and 
put it in the freezer.  I met these nice folks in Key West recently and they graciously let me use a copy of the Solares Hill photo and much to my surprise they pulled out the monster size hail saved in the freezer.  This ice was at least 2.5 inches across and one piece measured 3 inches.  This is the largest hail ever recorded in Key West!  Click on 
the photos below for an enlargement.

My day started at 4:30am with a schedule shoot for a client.  I headed down to the upper deck of the historicLa Concha Motel for a few aerials shots then quickly moved to the famous lighthouse down the street.  Next up was the beach on the south side of the Island where I filmed people running.  I got the video uplink taken care of and headed back home.

About 2:30pm I got a call from the same client looking for some rain footage.  "Rain footage huh?" I said as I lookedout the window and observed sunny skies galore.  Remembering that the forecast called for a 50% chance ofshowers I advised them that we might get some rain later today and I'd  shoot it.  Did they know something I didn't??

I headed back down to Key West with all my gear.  About 6 miles out I pulled up the local doppler radar using Rory Groves' SWIFT weather program.  I had the image in 2 minutes from the time I initiated the cell phone call.Boy, that was fast.  I saw a multicolored cell just west of Key West.  Heck, at 6 miles out I could see the rain shafts in the distance.  Looks like I was getting the set up I've always wanted: To be on Duval Street when the heavens opened up and all the tourist scatter like mice!  The money shot!

I went the fast route to Duval Street the tourist don't know about.  Unfortunately I didn't want to screw around looking for a parking place so I paid the $15 to park at a pub called "Hog's Breath".  I know, nobody pays $15 for parking but it was a great location.  I grabbed the gear and made a "B-Line" for a big intersection at the north end of Duval Street.  My timing was perfect because it just started sprinkling.  These Key West tourist are a prettyhardy bunch and they just ignored the light rain, that is until the lightning started landing nearby and the rain went into gully washer mode.  That did the trick.  Every direction I pointed the camera there were people scrambling for cover.

Now most everything came to a stop except the Conch Tour Train of course.  Everyone on the train is issued a yellow rain slicker for just such an occasion.  In the first image above, these tourist are just realizing that the rain is bouncing back up off the pavement and making a funny noise.  Someone yelled out, "Hey that's hail".  The guy standing next to me got beaned in the head but it wasn't that 1.75 inch stuff near the airport.

The storm was short lived and lasted less than an hour.  The above images show how easily the Duval Street areacan flood so quickly. Here is a CONUS image from NRL Monteray and a skew t/Log p graph.

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