By Linda Stewart Ball
DALLAS — Maintenance crews worked Thursday to clear roads after a storm dumped several inches of hail on parts of the Texas Panhandle, trapping motorists in muddy drifts that were waist- to shoulder-high.
The storm left so much hail in its wake that workers had to use snow plows to clear the piles from the road.
“It was crazy,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Justyn Jackson said about the strange storm, which hit Wednesday afternoon. The hail was “real small” but there was a lot of it in a concentrated area, accumulating 2- to 4-feet deep, he said.
The rural area where the storm struck was mainly ranch land, about 25 miles north of Amarillo and south of Dumas. Rainwater gushed across the parched land, washing dirt and then mud into the hail, pushing it all onto U.S. 287, Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas said.
“There were just piles of hail,” said Maribel Martinez with the Amarillo/Potter/Randall Office of Emergency Management. “Some of the cars were just buried in hail and people were trapped in their cars.”
The southbound lane of the highway, which was shut down around 5 p.m. Wednesday, finally reopened early Thursday morning shortly after midnight, though water remained on the road until around 5 a.m., said Paul Braun, a Texas Department of Transportation spokesman in Amarillo.
Emergency crews also got several swift-water rescue calls as the road was flooded in low-lying areas, Martinez said. Rural fences and vehicles suffered hail damage but there were no reported injuries.
Braun said work crews stayed in roadside ditches Thursday afternoon diligently trying to break up the ice jams and debris that had fused together and prevented drainage.
“We’ve got five, 6-foot high icebergs along the roadway,” Braun said. “If we get another rainstorm it will flood again.”
But the National Weather Service said it’s starting to clear up and should be a sunny weekend.
“That’s a good thing, since it will take a few days for that hail to melt,” said Andrew Moulton, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Amarillo.