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Hail fell from the sky in Pinellas County on Thursday as heavy thunderstorms moved in late in the afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.
The reported hail varied in size from as little as peas to as large as marbles, said Rodney Wynn of the the National Weather Service’s Ruskin office.
Reports of the falling ice balls first started to come in around 6 p.m. Wynn said that hail will remain a possibility late into the evening, dying off after a line of storms fully passes around 10 p.m.
While Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties have been spared from the hail so far, heavy thunderstorms have been present across Tampa Bay throughout the afternoon and early evening.
Wynn said at 6 p.m. that more than half of Hillsborough County was seeing substantial rainfall. He said a line of storms coming from the east, currently over Polk County, will ensure that the rain won’t let up until later Thursday night.
The thunderstorms caused about 221 outages for Tampa Bay area Duke Energy customers and around 50 outages for TECO customers after 6:30 p.m.
So, how often does hail fall in the Sunshine State? Our hot climate makes it rare, according to a study from Florida State University.
“The freezing level in a Florida thunderstorm is so high; hail often melts before it reaches the ground,” the study said.
That doesn’t mean we haven’t had serious damage from hail.
Hail as big as softballs was reported in Lake Wales in 1996, causing damage of approximately $24 million. A decade later, in 2007, an area north of Ocala reported hailstones ranging from 2 to 4 inches, according to Florida State researchers.