Scientists weigh in on Nebraska’s unusual hail storms and whether they are the new norm – Omaha World-Herald
Nebraskans have watched severe weather track across the state in waves since May, devastating some areas multiple times.
In Kearney, Realtor Patrick Slack can only shake his head at the damage.
A commercial building was so badly pummeled by hail that the loss was larger than the sale price, Slack said. The roof of a Kearney home was totaled by hail, replaced and totaled by a second hailstorm, all within 10 days, Slack said.
“We’ve had baseball-sized hail, we’ve had tennis ball-sized. We’ve had pea-sized hail that was so hard and rigid that, with 70-mph winds, it caused damage you wouldn’t expect,” said Slack, broker-owner of Century 21 Midlands. “Going back the last three years, it seems like these storms are becoming more common.”
Kearney County Emergency Management Director Craig Lupkes echoed those comments.
“We’ve been hit pretty hard the last couple of years,” he said. “We can never just catch rain. All it is is severe weather. When it comes through, it destroys everything.”
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Farm fields have been leveled, homes have been battered and windows blown out as a series of windstorms and hailstorms moved through.
Like the other weather disasters the state has been experiencing — including explosive wildfires and flooding rains — damaging hailstorms are on the increase in Nebraska and are expected to worsen with climate change, scientists say.
Hail from a June 7 storm covers a street in midtown Omaha. A University of Nebraska-Lincoln climatologist said this has been the second-worst June for hail in the last 10 years.
This year’s continuous outbreaks of hail are the result of storms riding into Nebraska along the edge of the heat dome that has been suffocating vast swaths of the country this spring and summer. Meteorologists often describe these storms as a “ring of fire” because they follow along the periphery of the mass of hot air.
By several measures, this has been a rough year.
Gannon Rush, a climatologist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said this has been the second worst June for hail in the last 10 years. The worst was 2014, when baseball-sized hail driven by 90-mph winds tore through communities north and west of Omaha.
Taking a look beyond hail, Rush said the state’s pace of thunderstorms has been well ahead of average.
During the first three weeks of the month, the National Weather Service issued 316 severe storm warnings, about a third more than average over a 20-year period.
So far, five counties have declared local disasters, said Erv Portis, assistant director of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. Those counties are: Kearney, Cass, Seward, York and Gage.
Because of the way federal rules are written and because the damage is largely private and insured, Nebraska won’t qualify for a federal disaster declaration, he said.
American Family Insurance, a major insurer in Nebraska, has received 6,200 claims for wind and hail damage this year, with about 4,000 coming …….