Strong storms bring destructive hail, damaging winds to Central Florida

According to the National Weather Service, the severe weather outbreak across East Central Florida on Wednesday was one for the record books. 

"After a few strong thunderstorms early this afternoon along the Saint Johns River in eastern Orange and central Brevard counties, convection exploded along the coast with numerous severe thunderstorms," NWS forecasters said. 

A deluge of hail was dropped, from Viera to West Melbourne and Palm Bay, within an hour.  The NWS offices in Melbourne observed several rounds of dime-to-penny-sized hail was observed, reaching up to quarter sized just before the storm moved out of the area, forecasters said. 

The largest hail report of the day was around West Melbourne and Palm Bay, where hail the size of golf balls was observed. It clogged storm drains and built up on area roadways. 

"Not only were the hailstones large, but the accumulations impressive, with ‘hail drifts’ of 1 to 2 feet," the NWS said. 

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Winds gusts of over 60 mph caused damage to mobile homes, roofs, and power lines. 

"This severe storm continued to travel along the Treasure Coast, producing wind gusts of 64 mph at the Vero Beach Airport and 79 mph in Fort Pierce before moving offshore of Stuart," forecasters said. 

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Additional storms pushed across Seminole and Lake counties with more reports of hail and damaging winds. 

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Below is an account of the day's weather events:

FOX 35 Storm Team weather updates 

9:21 p.m. - A Severe Thunderstorm Warning has been issued for Marion until 10 PM including Briar Meadow, Belleview, and Summerfield. Hail damage to vehicles is expected. Expect wind damage to roofs, siding, and trees. 

8:40 p.m. - A Severe Thunderstorm Watch, previously in effect until 9 PM for Marion and Putnam counties has been extended until 10 PM. 

8:26 p.m. - Severe Thunderstorm Warning has been issued for Marion until 9 PM.  A severe thunderstorm was located eight miles east of Williston, moving southeast at 15 mph. 

8:17 p.m. - Our FOX 35 Storm Team WeatherSTEM camera picked up this severe storm cell near Salt Springs in Marion County just after 8 PM.

8:03 p.m. - Brevard County was hit hard by Wednesday's storm that delivered strong wind, heavy rain, and damaging hail. Fences and trees were toppled at the Groveland Mobile Home Park in Melbourne. Nearby, a camper had been turned onto its side, injuring two.

7:41 p.m. - Severe Thunderstorm Warning issued for Lake County until 8:30 PM including Groveland, Mascotte, Clermont, Lake Louisa and Minneola.

7:41 p.m. - Severe Thunderstorm Warning issued for Alachua and Marion counties until 8:30 PM.

7:26 p.m. - Severe Thunderstorm Warning has been issued for Sumter until 7:45 PM, including Bushnell, Center Hill, Webster, and Tarrytown. This means a severe storm is in progress in the warned area.

7:05 p.m. - Severe Thunderstorm Warning issued for Marion until  7:45 PM. This means a severe storm is in progress in the warned area. 

6:21 p.m. - FOX 35 reporter Esther Bower is surveying severe storm damage in Melbourne where parts of a roof caved in during a hail storm.

5:53 p.m. - Severe Thunderstorm Warning has been issued for Brevard, Orange, Osceola counties until 6:30 PM including Cocoa, Port Saint John, and Rockledge. This means a severe storm is in progress in the warned area. 

5:50 p.m. - Local utilities report that approximately 4,000 residents are without power. Track Florida Power & Light (FPL) outages here.  Track Duke Energy outages here

5:35 p.m. - "I've live here for almost 40 years of my life, and I've never seen nothing like this!" FOX 35 News crews were surveying the damage to homes in Melbourne after severe weather moved across the region on Wednesday.  One homeowner shared access to his property where we observed collapsed roofs and downed trees. 

5:26 p.m. - The National Weather Service says more severe weather could be on the way to Florida through Thursday, due to "ample moisture and instability."

5:25 p.m. - Skies were clearing over Orlando Sanford International Airport late Wednesday afternoon as storms continued to move off Florida's Atlantic Coast just 40 miles to the east. 

5:21 p.m. - Special Marine Warning continues for the Sebastian Inlet to Jupiter Inlet 0-20 nm until 6:30 PM.

5:04 p.m. - National Weather Service Meteorologist Brendan Schaper discusses Wednesday's hail threat and how common large hail is reported in the Sunshine State:

4:47 p.m. - No snow day but plenty of ice from a hail storm at Central Middle School in West Melbourne, Florida. 

4:35 p.m. - Severe Thunderstorm Warning continues for Vero Beach, Gifford, and Indian River Shores until 5:00 PM EDT

4:34 p.m. - Hail was seen pouring across Brevard County and one viewer in Grant-Valkaria captured this footage.  See more weather videos and photos here.

4:09 p.m. - Severe Thunderstorm Warning issued for Indian River, Brevard until 5 PM. This means a severe storm is in progress in the warned area.

3:54 p.m. - Severe Thunderstorm Warning including Deltona, Sanford, and DeBary until 4:45 PM EDT

3:44 p.m. - Dime-to-penny sized hail has been reported at the National Weather Service office in Melbourne, Florida.

3:34 p.m. - Special Marine Warning including the Volusia-Brevard County Line to Sebastian Inlet 0-20 nm and Sebastian Inlet to Jupiter Inlet 0-20 nm until 5:00 PM EDT

3:32 p.m. - Interstate 95 in Brevard County, Florida was covered in hail as a storm cell moved across the county near Grant-Valkaria as seen in FDOT cameras:

3:29 p.m. - Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Brevard County including Palm Bay, Melbourne, and West Melbourne until 4:15 PM EDT. This storm will contain golf ball-sized hail!

3:29 p.m. - FOX 35 Storm Team Meteorologist Ian Cassette observes storms over Brevard County as seen from Orlando:

3:28 p.m. – An FDOT camera captured blinding rain on I-95 in Brevard County, Florida as strong storms moved through Wednesday night:

3:22 p.m. - Severe Thunderstorm Warning issued for Volusia, Lake, Seminole counties including Paisley, DeLand, and Sanford until  4 PM EDT. This means a severe storm is in progress in the warned area. 

2:27 p.m. - Orlando International Airport (MCO) warning travelers of possible canceled or delayed flights due to impending storms

Timeline: When is the best chance for Thursday storms to form?

There is the potential for strong to severe storms to return on Thursday across North Central Florida and northern counties of Central Florida during the afternoon and evening hours, bringing with them the risk of large and damaging hail, gusty winds, frequent lightning, and heavy downpours. A brief tornado could also be possible. 

Local factors like-surface heating and developing Gulf and Atlantic seabreezes will aid in storm development.

Severe storms could form anytime between 2 p.m. and midnight, though the strongest storms could form around 5 p.m. during the evening commute. Again, the biggest threats are large and destructive hail – potential stones between 2-3 inches in diameter – heavy rain, lightning, and wind gusts up to 60 mph.

If you have yet to do so, now would be a great time to download the FOX 35 Storm Team Weather App.  Should warnings be issued, you'll receive the critical weather information right there on the app. Track storms in real-time with the interactive radar and much more!

BEACHES: Not a great beach day for the area. Showers will spark up before 12 pm with chances increasing by the hour from that point on. Rain could get heavy, and lightning developing. Highs hit the 80-degree mark seaside with active afternoon skies continuing. Gusty winds, hail, heavy rain, and cloud-to-ground lightning will all be issues.

THEME PARKS: Warm and humid at the parks today. High near 84. Showers and storms develop mainly after 2 p.m. The severe weather risk will phase in during this time. Threat will include heavy rain, lightning, large hail, and possible damaging winds. Storm threats ease after 7 p.m., decreasing rapidly with the setting sun. 

Best to stay weather-aware today and when that thunder roars, you should head indoors immediately.

OUTLOOK: Stormy weather will continue for the area heading into the weekend. Plenty of passing energy from the Gulf combined with local factors will drive the storm risk. We've declared Friday a FOX 35 WEATHER IMPACT DAY. 

Strong storms on Friday will be possible both during the morning and into the afternoon hours as yet another front moves into the area. Heavy rain, gusty winds and hail will remain the primary threats during this time. Showers and isolated storms will be possible again Saturday and Sunday so stay tuned for details in the coming days ahead.