Storm carrying massive ‘softball-sized hail’ hits parts of Kansas and Missouri

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In this image provided by Jeremy Crabtree, large chunks of hail are shown, Wednesday night, March 13, 2024, in Shawnee, Kan. Volatile weather was honing in on parts of Kansas and Missouri Wednesday night, with some storms bringing massive chunks of hail. (Jeremy Crabtree via AP)

ST. LOUIS – Massive chunks of hail pelted parts of Kansas and Missouri on Wednesday night, bringing traffic to a standstill along Interstate 70, as storms unleashed possible tornadoes, and meteorologists urged residents to stay indoors.

There were three unconfirmed reports of tornadoes in Wabaunsee and Shawnee counties with reports of damaged structures, but no reports of injuries or homes damaged, according to meteorologist Matt Wolters with the National Weather Service’s Topeka office. Survey teams plan to head out Thursday to evaluate the damage, he said.

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There were reports of 4-inch (10-centimeter) hail, nearly softball-size, in the town of Wabaunsee and 3-inch (7.6-centimeter) hail in Geary County near Junction City and Fort Riley, Wolters said.

Descriptions of the hail ranged from the size of golf balls and apples, to softballs and baseballs.

“When you get up to tennis ball, baseball-sized or God forbid softball-sized, that can do a tremendous amount of damage, and if you get hit in the head, that could be fatal,” Alex Sosnowski, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather said.

Traffic came to a standstill for a time on part of Interstate 70 because of the falling hail, the National Weather Service said on X. Images of large hail chunks and at least one cracked windshield were shown on KSHB-TV.

Late Wednesday, forecasters issued tornado warnings in the areas around Topeka and to the north, while severe thunderstorm warnings were issued northeast of Kansas City in Missouri.

“If you are in this warning, get away from windows and shelter inside now!!!” the National Weather Service posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. The weather service said the storm had previously produced “softball-sized hail,” or 3.5-inch (8.9-centimeter) chunks.

The weather service also issued a severe thunderstorm watch for parts of Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas through Thursday morning, after which forecasters said the storm will move to the east.

While the hail threat lessens Thursday, meteorologists said heavy rain and high winds were still possible from northeastern Texas through central Missouri.

The biggest threat on Friday is for torrential rain — perhaps up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) in some spots — in a line from central Louisiana up through central Arkansas, Sosnowski said.

Other parts of the country also were seeing severe weather. A major snowstorm hit Colorado starting Wednesday night, closing numerous schools and government offices and shutting down sections of highways leading to the Denver area. That storm wasn’t expected to wind down until Friday.

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Associated Press reporter Lisa Baumann contributed from Bellingham, Washington.


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