ABILENE, Texas - KIRO 7 meteorologist Morgan Palmer describes his experience on a flight that was preparing to leave from an Abilene, Texas airport when a storm releasing golf ball-sized hailstones rolled in on June 12, 2014.
I was on an already-delayed commuter flight on American Eagle, from my hometown of Abilene, Texas to Dallas, then hoping to connect on to Seattle.
The Dallas Fort Worth air hub was already slammed in the morning by thunderstorms, and flights were being pushed back and/or canceled all day long.
As I was at the small Abilene airport, we were under a severe thunderstorm warning and I could see on radar the storm with large hail already reported bearing down on the city from the north. However, they decided to board us anyway.
The wind and lightning increased in the few minutes we were on the plane. I was sure they were going to have us get off, but to my amazement, we departed from the gate.
And as you can see from the video, had the storm been stronger with higher winds or some of the softball size hail received just a few miles away, the outcome for all of us on board could have been far different.
At the beginning of the video, visibility is poor as I began shooting. You can see the ramp operator running for cover as we pull away. Hail begins less than one minute later with strong wind of at least 40 mph.
The hail continues for minutes on end, and the ability to see outside the aircraft from my seat improves. The flight attendant looked a little nervous, but everyone else on the plane was amazingly calm, some reading newspapers and books as the hail continued. We get hail a lot in Texas but rarely are you in a plane during a hailstorm!
When the hail finally subsided, we went back to the gate and deplaned. I overheard a maintenance engineer tell one of the gate agents that the airplane looked like it had been struck all over by a ball-peen hammer. Unfortunately, there was not a good angle to get video of the damage from the terminal window.
All of us with connections were re-booked on flights Friday.
A TSA officer also was injured when a hailstone hit her hand and skylights in the Abilene Airport terminal were broken out.
Outside, I found hailstones of larger than golf ball size, and the associated damage to cars was significant.