Thunderstorms shower region with hail

By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 15, 2010; B04

Fierce thunderstorms, among the season's first, roared across the area Friday evening, with crackling lightning and a torrent of hailstones that dented cars, rattled on roofs and stunned many residents.

Twice the National Weather Service posted and then canceled tornado warnings in Maryland. One warning was for a part of Southern Maryland, where James Culbreth said hail "covered the ground" for a time.

Culbreth, who lives near Waldorf, said he could hear the hail "hitting the roof," as it also kept "bouncing off cars."

As did several storm witnesses, he described hailstones as "golf-ball size," calling them "as large as I've seen" in 40 years in his Charles County neighborhood.

From 6 to 9 p.m. from western Fairfax and Prince William counties to Anne Arundel County on the east, witnesses reported the sight and sound of hail, in sizes ranging from dimes and pennies to quarters and golf balls.

It "was the wildest thing ever," someone quoted a friend in a comment posted on the Capital Weather Gang Web site. The sound "of the hail hitting the house was terrifying."

Bobby Cotten, 29, of Fairfax said sunny skies quickly turned into "probably the biggest hailstorm I've ever seen." Hailstones dented four cars at his family's Vienna home, cracking the windshield of one, he said.

In Calvert County, hail fell for 10 minutes, one witness said. Quarter-size hailstones forced a driver off the road in Herndon. Another witness said hail bounced on the platform and into Metro rail cars at Takoma Station.

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