I could see some severe cells approaching on the radar and one looked like it was going to hit us dead-on. I went out on the porch to wait. The lightning was almost continuous but the wind hadn't picked up yet. The sirens went off and added to the excitement (half of us were on the porch, waiting). Eventually there was a bit of breeze, then it got stronger. In the distance we could hear a roaring sound, growing louder. I wasn't worried about a tornado and thought it was too loud for the wind associated with a downdraft. Assuming that the coming rain must be incredibly heavy I went to the doorway to watch. A few drops started coming down and then I realized that the sound was probably hail. Another moment and it was upon us. It was absolutely deafening. It sounded like the end of the world. I could see massive hailstones hitting the street and exploding. I looked at our van and car and realized that there was nothing I could do. I made the sign of the cross over them and asked God to protect them. [Foolishly I didn't do the same thing for the house.] The hail was not only large - most of it golf ball-sized - but there was a ton of it. The ground started to turn white. The wind was blowing very hard and the hail was exploding through the open screen door and starting to cover the porch. When we opened the door to the house some of the hail blew inside.
[Pause to add that we're going to go check the church and the hall in a few minutes. Oh boy...it's like, all windows...I'll update when we get back. [UPDATE: SEE BELOW]]
After it had been hailing for about a minute I remembered the camera and dashed inside to get it. I filmed the next 2 minutes of the storm. The video doesn't do it justice because it's so dark. Turn the volume up until you're covering your ears and that's what it sounded like.
As soon as it died down (about 2 minutes after I stopped filming) I ran out to gather up some hail to measure. I photographed it next to a tape measure. When the rain had stopped a little bit too I ran out and checked the cars. There are probably dings in the metal car bodies but the windows are all intact!! I can't believe it. They were completely exposed. Thanks be to God! Remember I mentioned that I should have done the same for the house? Well, we lost two windows in the house and have a leak in the roof near the fireplace. Live and learn. I estimate the entire hailstorm lasted about 5 minutes. It felt like an eternity.
UPDATE: Well, we went to check the church and hall (ALL of us, despite it being past bedtime) and, believe it or not, the church is FINE. Not one crack in one window. And our church is practically all windows! We were most worried about the west side (that's the direction the hail was coming from) but here it is, sound as ever:
Not quite so lucky at the hall, but even there only lost one window in the kitchen:
We drove around a few blocks on the way home and saw a few things. There were two streetlamps which had the exterior portion blown down by the hail...but the light was still on. Amazing. Here's one:
In one shopping area a few smart people pulled their cars right up on the sidewalk outside the stores. As we drove around we didn't see any vehicles with broken windows. My theory is that the hail was composed of ice layers that broke apart easily so the energy of the blow was absorbed more by the hail (which exploded) than the item it hit.
Unless, of course, the item being hit is an easily ripped-out screen. All of our screens except the two on the sheltered east side of the porch were ripped out by the hail. That explains how so much hail got on the porch.