Powerful winds and heavy rain swept across San Luis Obispo County on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, bringing hail in some areas and cutting a path of destruction across Camp San Luis Obispo.
A band of thunderstorms associated with a vigorous upper-level, low-pressure system passed over Cayucos and Morro Bay and moved toward Camp San Luis Obispo about 1 a.m. Wednesday.
The thunderstorms produced 1-inch-diameter hail, lightning strikes and gusty winds. Updraft winds of between 37 and 56 mph are needed to produce hail of that size.
“I never saw anything like this in my 52 years here in Cayucos,” said resident Pat Molnar. “What a way to wake up in the morning; you could not believe the racket it made.”
His daughter Fallon and son Brance took a photograph of what appears to be record-breaking hailstones.
Cayucos resident Mike Smith said that about 1 a.m., a very strong thunderstorm passed over his home, dropping 1-inch-diameter hail for about five minutes.
“It sounded like a freight train coming through the house. In my 67 years as a California native, I never experienced a hailstorm as intense, or hailstones as big as last night’s storm,” he said.
An extensive review of weather records for San Luis Obispo County indicates that these were probably the largest hailstones ever documented along the Central Coast. In 1960, golf ball- to baseball-sized hail occurred near Boulevard in Southern California with hailstones up to 2.75 inches in diameter. That was the largest hail ever recorded in the state.
Also about 1 a.m., Camp San Luis Obispo reported strong winds causing damage along a half-mile path.
The winds moved a 20-foot metal shipping container about 12 feet and flipped it on its side; threw a set of wooden stairs and a 10-by-20-foot aluminum bleacher well over 100 feet, destroying them; and severely damaged trees, fences, a communications pole and a cell tower.
The wind was probably a microburst, or strong downdraft associated with thunderstorms.
These winds can exceed 70 mph over a small area of 2.5 miles or less.
While the skies cleared Wednesday, another cold front and light rain showers are expected Friday morning. Fair and warmer weather is then forecast for the weekend and into next week. Daytime temperatures should be in the 70s in most areas of the county by Sunday and then climb into the mid-70s to low 80s by Monday and Tuesday.
Here's how much it rained, in inches, at areas around the Central Coast from Saturday through Wednesday:
|Camp San Luis||1.02"|
|Mission College Prep||1.31"|
|Paso Robles Airport||0.95"|
|Point San Luis Lighthouse||0.67"|
|Santa Maria Public Airport||1.07"|
|Santa Margarita Fire Dept.||1.90"|
|San Luis Obispo airport||1.07"|
John Lindsey writes special to The Tribune. He is a media relations representative for PG&E and a longtime local meteorologist.