Hail causes havoc in Union

By Dick Mason, The Observer August 12, 2013 10:32 am

Golfball-sized hail hit Union Saturday afternoon causing the cancellation of some of the events at the Grassroots Festival. (Courtesy photo)
Golfball-sized hail hit Union Saturday afternoon causing the cancellation of some of the events at the Grassroots Festival. (Courtesy photo)

UNION — Golfball sized hail hit Union with explosive force Saturday evening.

The half-hour hail storm hit at 5:30 p.m. and left a swath of damaged property in its wake.

“It was epic,” said Sue Blair of Union. “I have never  seen a hailstorm like this in my life. I have seen ones like it on Youtube, but to experience it was unreal.”

The storm damaged  vehicles, shredded gardens and the fruit of pear and peach trees. 

Judy Johnston of Union  noted that the roofs and hoods of many vehicles were dented by the hail stones. One brand new car was among those reportedly damaged.

Johnston also was hit hard by the storm. She noted that the hail destroyed the air vents  of her three enclosed Igloo dog kennels. 

“It disintegrated them like they were nothing,” the Union resident said, noting that the hail was the size of golfballs.

The storm also wreaked havoc with the Grassroots Festival in Union. It struck right before its lawn mower races were set to start at Union’s city park.  

“People were screaming,” said Donna Beverage, the director of the Grassroots Festival. “The hailstones were so huge that heads of people were bleeding.”

Everyone at the park had no choice but to wait the storm out because if they ran cover they risked getting hit in the eye or face by falling hail, Beverage said. 

People everywhere were huddling to protect each other throughout the park.

“Even if they were strangers they were huddling with each other,” Beverage said.

In many cases adults hovered  over children to protect them. 

“Grown ups were huddled over kids,” Beverage said.

Beverage had two of her grandchildren in a stroller when the storm hit. She was touched by how someone she didn’t know placed a chair over the stroller to protect her grandchildren.

“Strangers were helping strangers. That was so nice,” Beverage said.

The storm forced the cancellation  of not only the lawn mower races but also the Grassroots Festival’s street dance. Beverage said she was not bothered by the cancellations.

“We are just thankful that nobody got hurt,” Beverage said.

Blair noted noted that for one three minute stretch, there was a solid sheet of hail. She said that some of the hailstones bounced into the air while others exploded after landing. 

Darrin Walenta of Union observed hail the size of marbles and ping pong balls. He said he has seen more severe hail storms while growing up in Oklahoma, but not since moving  to Oregon in 1992.

“It was the worst I’ve seen in Oregon,” Walenta said.

The storm also hit Cove Saturday, pelting it with hail one inch in diameter, according to the National Weather Service in Pendleton. No damage was reported, however.