Some areas in West Texas were hit by a big storm on Wednesday morning. A photo posted online showing a firefighter standing next to about four feet of hail dumped by the stormed, sparked online controversy, with many expressing disbelief.
According to officials of the National Weather Service in Amarillo, the storm was so severe that major highways in some parts of the Texas Panhandle were covered completely in hail. NPR reports that nickel-sized hail fell so fast and so thickly that they were pushed into drifts that stood as high as four feet in some places.
One of the first photos the weather service posted to its Facebook page showed a firefighter standing next to about four feet of hail reaching up to his chest. The photo seemed so incredible that it raised an online controversy with several saying it did not show hail but rocks.
Viewers soon began speculating freely on what might be the truth of the image.
According to Daily Mail, a viewer commenting on Facebook, said: "That just doesn't even look real! Dang!"
Another viewer of the photo, said: "Looks like a bunch of rocks/stones."
A third said: "It's a lite dusting of hail on some damn rocks."
Boston.com, however, reports that many vehicles were trapped in the flood. Weather service report also said a two foot flood of water hit a part of Highway 136.
NWS, Amarillo, Texas
Firefighter standing next to chest high hail
Krissy Scotten, a spokeswoman for the weather service office in Amarillo, told MSNBC that a Chevy Tahoe and a big SUV were trapped in hail up to the hood.
Scotten, countering skepticism about the photo, said: "I can assure you we do not have big rocks like that in West Texas." She insisted that what the photo showed really was four feet of ice. She explained that the rock-like appearance of the ice was because of drought in West Texas. She explained the drought made it very dusty and the hail was compacted by rain and floodwater over a wide area.
She added: "It was actually the rain/water that caused the drifts. Anytime you have hail accumulate two to four feet high and get over three inches of rain, no matter how it occurs, it's pretty incredible."
Daily Mail reports that the Texas Department of Transportation said that at the height of the storm visibility was zero. On Thursday, maintenance crews worked all day clearing the roads. There was so much hail that they had to use snow plow to clear the roads.
AP reports a local TV meteorologist, said: "It looked like soap suds. The storm was moving really slow and a combination of the pea-sized hail and four to six inches of rain created those conditions."
The area affected by the storm was mainly ranch land about 25 miles north of Amarillo and south of Dumas. AP reports Maribel Martinez of the Amarillo/Potter/Randall Office of Emergency Management, said: "There were just piles of hail. Some of the cars were just buried in hail and people were trapped in their cars."
The National Weather Service has said the weather is clearing up and that the weekend should be sunny. Andrew Moulton, a meteorologist in Amarillo, said: "That's a good thing since it will take a few days for that hail to melt."
There have been similar incidents in the area in the past. Daily Mail reports a storm that hit Dalhart, Texas, in 1993, produced five to six-foot deep hail that took over a month to melt.