COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — For the third time this month, large hail was reported in central Ohio, as a cluster of severe thunderstorms marched across the state during the warmest part of the afternoon Saturday.

A few strong cells produced hail ranging in size from a nickel to a quarter in northern Pickaway and southeastern Franklin counties. The largest stone was 1.25 inches in diameter at Mount Sterling in Madison County.

(Photo courtesy Brittany Thomas)

Tall thunderstorms developed in the unseasonably sunny, very warm, and muggy environment Saturday afternoon and early evening, reaching the colder upper layers of the lower atmosphere. Buoyancy fueled by instability (heat, moisture) provided the necessary lift.

Live VIPIR radar, Saturday, 4:13 p.m.

Hail stones require strong, long-lasting updrafts supported by wind shear — winds increasing and shifting direction with height — that allow raindrops to freeze and accrete around ice nuclei. The stones grow in successive layers in the upward-moving air within a strong thunderstorm.

Hail the size of a golf ball (1.75 inches), and, in one instance, as large as a tennis ball (2.5 inches), fell in the area around Lancaster on May 4. Hail also accompanied a strong storm at Washington Court House on May 14.

Hail occurs most frequently in the United States in May and June. Annually, hailstorms cause an average of $10 billion in damage. Large hail can shatter a windshield, leave dents in siding and roofs, and destroy crops.

NOAA records show that the biggest hailstone recorded in the U.S. fell near Vivian, South Dakota, on July 23, 2010, measuring 8 inches in diameter and 18.5 inches in circumference.  

An unusual tightly wound thunderstorm system vortex crossed central Ohio Friday morning, kicking off a stormy weekend. Because the complex arrived around daybreak during the cooler part of the day, no severe weather was reported, though the rain was heavy and lightning fairly intense.

Live Vipir radar, Friday 8 a.m.