Sunday, 6 May 2012

Day 7: All hail breaks loose

We awoke in our hotel in Mitchell, South Dakota around 8, and looked out the window to find pitch black skies. Given that the sun rises here around 6:30, this seemed strange. Then it started to rain, and we realized we were looking into the face of one huge mother of a nasty thunderstorm storm cell. We tuned into the Weather Channel, and instead of seeing the local weather, they were doing live reports of their tornado chasers, who had been tracking some storm overnight out of Oklahoma or somewhere. We paid little attention, and got dressed, ready to have breakfast.

Then the hail started. We looked out the window and watched a lady run to her car and drive it under the only shelter around: the drive through of the check in window.
An out of focus shot at 8:41 of the start
A minute later, the hail started pounding on the roof of the hotel, then banging and crashing. The hail was now the size of golf balls, and they were hitting everything and bouncing.
8:43. Other cars start to move
Then the hail grew to the size of baseballs.
Parts started coming off the roof of the hotel. Someone outside trying to move their car was hit and knocked down. Someone threw a mattress out of their room onto the roof of their car. And then the hail stopped.

I went out into the pouring rain and this is what I found:
My windshield destroyed
My car was full of dents. The roof bullet was undamaged. Another car (a VW Passat convertible from Ontario) had the rear window broken into a million pieces. We went back to look at the Weather Channel again and it turns out the supercell the tornado dudes were tracking all night was the one hitting us. By now, the National Weather Service was issuing severe hail warnings (about 15 min too late).

I got on the phone and called my insurance company and registered the claim. While I was on the phone, another supercell showed up on the radar. The NWS updated their warning and said another hail storm was going to hit within 10 min. I leapt into my car and drove into Mitchell, hoping to find some kind of parkade for protections. No such luck. But the place was a mess of downed branches, leaves and building parts. Lots of vehicles had been hit. By the time the next storm cell arrived, all I could find was a church parking lot partially protected with trees. I was lucky that the hail was small and inconsequential.

Back to the hotel, I started to try and find a way to get my windshield replaced in Mitchell. No can do, at least not on a Saturday AM. So I started going further afield, and found both a windshield and guy to replace it about an hour down the road at Sioux Falls.

Around then, the NWS stormtracker dudes noted that Chamberlain, SD had been hit with grapefruit sized hail overnight. We stopped in Chamberlain yesterday for a break. They also mentioned the storms were moving east at 45 mph. Sioux Falls is east. The radar said we would drive back into the edges of them.

So we headed slowly to Sioux Falls, driving with this view:
Good job it wasn't sunny
The nice guy (Craig at Novus Glass) whipped my windshield out and put the new one in in under 45 min.
Out with the shattered one
And I pushed back in the knocked out trim, found other broken bits, and tried to assess the damage.
Dents in the hood
We had to wait for 30 min or so for the windshield glue to set before getting back on the highway, so picnicked in a very wet and cold (13°) park before heading off. About an hour south, just before the South Dakota/Iowa border on I-29, it was 18°. Within 5 miles it rose to 32°, and got to 34° just north of Kansas City.

We tuned into the Weather Channel again last night. The stormtracker dudes were sitting just behind a supercell that had blown over a semi-trailer, had funnel clouds forming under it, and were dumping golfball sized hail on things. The storms location? Salem, SD, halfway between Mitchell and Sioux Falls. We watched for an hour as they compared that storm with the "storm of the century" that pounded Mitchell the previous day -- the one that hit us. They were surprised that ours didn't have a tornado in it.

My car now hates me, I think. It has been a great vehicle for the last 8 years, and now it got beat up for no reason. Sorry, poor thing.


Unknown said...

That is an amazing seemed like the storm was chasing YOU! Hope your insurance will cover the cost of fixing or replacing the poor damaged car. Shessh. Bill Mcfarlane

RyderDA said...

The car is a total loss. Runs great, but will cost more to repair than the car's worth.