Weirding Weather: After a North County Boom, Huntington Beach Goes Through Hail — ‘Snow Kidding!

HB Snow 2 - HB Cam of Pier, 605px

At least this morning, Huntington could advertise itself as having “white sand beaches.”


HB Snow 1 - Michael Trollmann - crop

For those of you who can’t tell: no, the beach is NOT blue and black.


It has been a weird half-day (as this is written) in Orange County weather, starting with a bolt from the blue-black in the dead of night and a peal of thunder heard from the Puente Hills to the coast (and probably beyond) and continuing with a hail storm in Huntington Beach and — well, that must be either small hail or snow in the photo above, because if it was cocaine it would have been scooped up by now.  And none of this happened in sub-freezing weather, either.

Between 2:00 and 2:30 a.m. today, a most unusual thunderstorm commenced with a bright lightning strike (visible like a spotlight through my the threading holes of closed blinds) followed by a single, extremely loud thunderclap.  I’d estimate about five seconds between them, which would put it about a mile away from South Brea.  It woke people up as far away as Newport Beach, but on Facebook set a bunch of people from Fullerton, at least, into a Facebooking fact-finding frenzy.  And then that first enormous thunderclap was followed by … nothing, at least thunderclap-wise.  That’s the unusual part; in my two decades of thunderstorm-enduring (and, frankly, often enjoying, as one might a waterfall) I don’t recall any others that had just one huge lightning strike.  Explosions, sure, but not storms.

A few minutes later, the Brea-Fullerton area did experience a downpour for seemingly about 10-15 minutes — but that passed quickly as well.  (Brea registered .30 inches of rain so far today, and most of the day has been sunny, so that was probably a pretty hard thunderstorm-like rain.)

And then things got even weirder than that.

I don’t have many reports from between Fullerton and the 405, but Huntington Beach got seriously stoned this morning, or at least iced.  From the photos above, it’s not clear whether this was SNOW snow — which I find hard to believe at this temperature, although I’ve been snowed on above 35 degrees — and while residents described it as such the weather service said that it was actually pea-sized hail.  In photographs, the two can be hard to distinguish; all I’ll say is that if it wasn’t actual snow, it was the snowiest-looking accumulation of hail I can recall seeing.  The Register paraphrases Huntington Beach Marine Safety Lt. Mike Beuerlein as saying that “visitors were rushing into lifeguard headquarters for cover” — and because that happens for rain and all the more so for hail, but rarely for even wet snow, it suggests that it may not have been snow.

Scientifically, the difference between them is that hail is amorphous frozen water drops that get bigger the longer they blow around in the upper atmosphere and snow is an accretion of individually crystallized flakes.  Then can sometimes be seen individually; in warmer temperatures they come down mushed together, but don’t have the feel of ice.  Think of wheat germ vs. wheat flower — but really cold. (We will cover slush, black ice, and oobleck in future posts.)

Sadly overlooked, from a North County viewpoint, is the question of WHERE THE HELL that lightning strike hit — or, if it remained only in the sky, what was its epicenter.  (Or endocenter.  Whichever.)  Orange Juice Blog has searched local newspapers for clues, but searches on thunder and lightning have, unfortunately, respectively generated mostly basketball and hockey news.

By the way, climate change — which technically is largely “global humidification,” as warming evaporates more water vapor into the atmosphere and then weird things happen to the air currents — has also been called “global weirding” of weather, so contrary to what some global warming opponents would tell you this is not evidence against climate change, but more evidence that, increasingly, the wrong weather (and often too much of it) is going into the wrong places.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-disabled and semi-retired, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally ran for office against jerks who otherwise would have gonr unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.) His daughter is a professional campaign treasurer. He doesn't usually know whom she and her firm represent. Whether they do so never influences his endorsements or coverage. (He does have his own strong opinions.) But when he does check campaign finance forms, he is often happily surprised to learn that good candidates he respects often DO hire her firm. (Maybe bad ones are scared off by his relationship with her, but they needn't be.)