Diaspora Feature Story

Surviving” a hail storm on the freeway (by someone who hasn’t been in one)


Photo © Abner Galino

I HAVE seen tons of pictures and videos of people delighting over hail dumped on yards, houses, cars and roads. And so I have this warped notion of hailstorms — which I primarily associate with thrill and fun.

Well, now I know better.

At about 3:20 p.m. while driving along the 110 freeway near Vernon in south Los Angeles, a drizzle that was foretold by a dark cloud suddenly turned into pea-sized hail.

Immediately, ear-piercing thuds inundated my car. For a moment, I didn’t know what it was until I saw hail bursting as they hit my windshield. They turned into fine grains of ice as they burst. (Probably, finer than the shaved ice that my people use on our popular dessert called halo-halo).

I felt my windshield tremble at the impact of the relentless bashing of hail. Simultaneously, moist was building up on all the glasses, blurring my view of the road.

Fears were racing in my mind. One was about the dread of my windshield breaking from the onslaught of hail. (Because I understood that if they were anymore bigger, they could certainly break the glass). And second, I dread about the prospect of crashing onto a car in front of me, or being rear-ended. (It didn’t help that about a month ago, someone crashed his car into my year-old Honda Odyssey and I dread going through those processes again.)

Fortunately, I was about a mile away from an overpass when the hail happened. I turned my hazard lights on and sought shelter under the bridge until I thought the worst part of the hail was over. And there were many of us under that bridge by the Vernon exit. We were looking at each other, awkwardly smiling at each other as we sized up the situation.

I rushed out of the freeway as soon as the hailstorm stopped. I could see the flood rising and the traffic beginning to stall as I leave the freeway.

Photo © Abner Galino

I stopped by at the nearest commercial plaza. Parked my car, got out and began shooting my camera. People were rushing out from a grocery — some of them were taking videos (through their cellphones) of the hail dumped on cars and the pavement, some were picking up the hailstones, some were excitedly walking over them and a couple of kids made snowballs.

One woman smiled at me and said: Well, I’m not so thrilled. I’m from the Midwest and I’ve been to all kinds of weather.

I smiled back.

Well, I said to myself, that’s just one mighty reason why I must not leave Southern California where hailstorms are far and few.

I turned back and dropped a scheduled coverage of an exhibit of Filipino-American artists, dubbed as Buklod, at the Croatian Cultural Center of Greater Los Angeles in San Pedro. I decided not to take anymore risk as the clouds were still dark and foreboding.

Meanwhile the Associated Press (AP) reported that the spring storm “set rainfall records, dumped hail on an awards show red carpet and delivered up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of snow in the mountains.”

In Los Angeles County, a rainfall record of .39 inches (1 centimeter) was set Sunday at Long Beach Airport.

The afternoon storm interrupted the red carpet event of the MTV Movie & TV Awards outside Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium, when celebrities ran for cover from heavy downpours and hail. Downtown Los Angeles received .32 inches (0.8 centimeters) of rain and areas to the north got about an inch.”

Hail fell inland from West Covina and Chino Hills to further east areas of San Bernardino County, according to AP.

The record-breaking precipitation during the winter and spring came after five years of drought in California.

Abner Galino
The author is a poet and a writer. He was a cultural worker before he became a reporter for Tinig ng Masa and Malaya Midday Edition during the Marcos regime. He later became a reporter of People's Tonight shortly after 1986 EDSA Revolution. He went on to become its Chief of Reporters, City Editor and News Editor. He retired after 15 years in the Journal Group of Publications. He now writes for Weekend Balita and the US Asian Post (USAP), weekly Filipino-American newspapers based in Los Angeles, California.

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