A freak hailstorm in Guadalajara, Mexico, has meant residents of at least six neighborhoods woke up on Sunday to find the streets, and their vehicles, buried in up to 1.5 meters (5 feet) of ice. It was all the more shocking because up until then, the city had been basking in temperatures of 31°C (88°F).
State governor Enrique Alfaro tweeted his surprise, saying that he had “witnessed scenes I had never seen: hail more than a meter high,” adding “and then we wonder if climate change exists.”
Icy pellets and slush covered everything, including cars, with the local government authorities and the Mexcian army hard at work trying to clear roads.
“After unusual hail in different colonies of the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area, mainly in Rancho Blanco and in the Industrial Zone, Civil Protection personnel attended the situation, and have been there since the early morning,” Alfaro said in a second tweet.
“In coordination with the Mexican Army and municipal authorities of Guadalajara and Tlaquepaque, the Government of Jalisco is working on the cleaning and removal of hail on public roads, as well as supporting the citizens who suffered concerns [about] their homes.”
Guadalajara, in the state of Jalisco, northwest of Mexico City, is one of Mexico's most populated cities. June is the state’s hottest month on average, though the average temperature only varies between 17°C (62°F) and 24°C (75°F) all year round.
While seasonal hail storms have been known to occur, nothing like on this scale has been seen in recent memory. The hail storm occurred between 1.50am and 2.10am local time, according to BBC News, when the temperature dropped from 22°C (71°F) to 14°C (57°F). Weather experts said the hailstones were of normal size, but melted on contact with the warm ground, creating a river that allowed more hail to float and accumulate on top, which grew to such proportions that it took obstacles such as cars with it as it ran downhill.
It's the second extreme weather event the city has experienced in three years. It snowed in Guadalajara in 2016 – an El Niño year – for the first time since 1997, almost 20 years earlier. 2019 has been deemed an El Niño year, but a weak one, and has so far been mild.
While people seem to be enjoying the novelty of a snow day in Guadalajara, with kids pictured throwing “iceballs” and slush at each other, not everyone was pleased. At least 200 homes and businesses reported hail damage, reports AFP.
It's thought at least 50 vehicles were swept away by ice running down from the hills or were buried under hailstones, too.
“Most important of all, there is no record of injured people or human losses so far," Alfaro tweeted, "and the work will not finish until it returns to normal."
The term "normal", however, is under question in a year that has already seen record-breaking temperatures in Australia, dangerous heatwaves in India, freezing temperatures and a historic number of tornadoes in the US, a record-breaking heatwave in Europe, a deadly heatwave in Japan, and heavy snow in Yellowstone Park on the first day of summer – and we're only halfway through the year.