A severe thunderstorm hit the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area on Thursday, March 18, 2016. The storm first hit about 04:00 (local time) and then again just before 09:00, dropping surprisingly large hailstones that busted in windshields, damaged houses, killed several animals at the Fort Worth Zoo and caused traffic chaos. The hailstones varied in size from blueberries to tennis balls.
According to media reports, a local ambulance provider was severely hampered by hail damage. They were out servicing the many accidents on the roads when they became victims of the storm. Matt Zavadsky of MedStar, said 50 vehicles suffered extensive damage. 11 ambulances were brought out of service because of busted windshields.
Giant hail to blame for more than 40 MedStar Vehicles/Ambulances with broken windshields and dented hoods. pic.twitter.com/OGh5jol3J5— Brandon Hamilton (@bhamiltonTV) March 17, 2016
National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Stalley said they warned that there could be a few severe storms but "they were more widespread than we anticipated.”
Golf-ball or larger sized hail pummeled the Fort Worth Zoo around 06:40, damaging skylights, exhibit roofs and vehicles and killing several animals in their bird collection. Alexis Wilson, a zoo spokeswoman, said the final death count was five flamingos, a pelican and two smaller birds — an ibis and a baby black-neck swan cygnet.
The Fort Worth Police Department’s West Division was damaged by the hail and heavy winds, as were other businesses in the area, including New Horizons Realtors, where large holes were punched in outside walls.
Egg-size hail was measured in Benbrook and tennis-ball-size hail later fell in south Arlington, according to the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.
Stalley said the chance of storms will stick around for a while. "There’s a 40 percent chance tonight and a 50 percent chance Friday and Friday night."
The storm is moving across the Gulf Coast. NWS has issued a severe thunderstorm watch until 20:00 CDT Thursday for parts of East Texas, central Louisiana, south Mississippi, southwest Alabama and far western sections of the Florida panhandle.
Featured image credit: CBS-DFW