Freak Summer Hailstorm Leaves Guadalajara Covered in Ice Overnight

The thick layers of ice buried cars and trapped people in their homes on Sunday morning

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Residents in Mexico's Guadalajara metropolitan area woke up buried in ice Sunday morning after an unusual freak summer hailstorm hit overnight.

The phenomenon left six suburbs of Guadalajara covered in thick hail, with up to five feet of accumulation in some areas burying cars and trucks, and leaving people trapped in their homes. Guadalajara is the capital of the state of Jalisco.

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Jalisco's Gov. Enrique Alfaro tweeted on Sunday that no deaths or injuries were reported and that clean-up efforts with the Mexican army, and Guadalajara and Tlaquepaque first responders continued all day. However, several properties suffered damages. 

“I just witnessed something that I’d never seen before: more than a meter-high of hail [...] And then we wonder if climate change exists,” the governor said on Twitter.

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Alfaro said that the Mexican army joined the municipal and state authorities to help people whose homes were damaged.

Both the leader and the police advised people to drive and walk carefully after reopening some streets and sidewalks, respectively, since traces of hail remained.

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This type of atmospheric activity, although not rare, doesn’t usually see big amounts of accumulation like the one in Guadalajara this weekend, according to NBC Bay Area meteorologist Kari Hall. 

“Hailstorms are caused by rain that falls and then is picked up by an updraft (current of air), it goes all the way up into the thunderstorm clouds where it freezes and then it comes back down,” Hall said. “If it’s still light enough it can get picked up again by an updraft, it freezes and when it gets too heavy, gravity takes over and it falls to the ground.”

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The on-level hail accumulation registered in Guadalajara this weekend is almost three times more than the record amount in the U.S., which stands at about 18 inches, according to Hall.

Hall was cautious in pointing at climate change as a possible factor in this event. “We have to look at the wider view of things,” she said. “Climate takes on the scope of a broader view of what’s going on, so we can’t attribute one crazy freak storm to climate change.” 

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The only way climate change would be considered a factor in this event is if accumulations like this occur more often.

Topography, on the other hand, may have contributed to the storm this time, according to the meteorologist. Guadalajara is a city 5,000 feet above the sea level which, with a thunderstorm’s low freezing level, can lead to a massive accumulation.

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“I think the elevation may have played a role if you had that alone with a low freezing level within the thunderstorm,” she said.

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