Rare Hailstorm Hits Vanuatu's Shepherd Group Of Islands

Dangerous sleet fell with heavy rains, high winds

By Godwin Ligo

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Oct. 12, 2016) – The ice pellets, which the Department of the Vanuatu Meteorological and Geo-Hazard Services say its proper term is sleet, reportedly fell on three islands in the Shepherd Group this week.

The three islands are Mataso, Makira and Emae.

One of the community leaders on Emae Island, Abel John, described what he said appeared as the hailstorm (ice pellets) that fell on Tongomea and Makatea villages on Emae Island on Monday this week as ‘dangerous’.

He confirmed to the Daily Post by phone from the island yesterday afternoon that leaves were stripped from trees, garden crops such as bananas, island cabbages, manioc, yam, taro, kumala all had their leaves damaged by the fallen sleet.

“The affected areas were covered in white with ice (pellets) stretched over an area like between Anabouru to Fresh Water in Port Vila, covering the villages of Tongomea and Makatea. The soccer field was all covered in white and ground under the trees was also all white.

“As we are talking now (3.30pm yesterday) the snow-like stones (ice pellets) are still melting slowly,” he said.

John said the sleet were brought down during the heavy rainfall on Monday with winds blowing from all directions, he said.

“It was like a cyclone, with heavy dark cloud that followed with very heavy rainfall associated with sudden falling of ice pebbles that sent men, women and children rushing into houses and locked their doors being very afraid not knowing what this was because it was the first time in the history of our lives on Emae to see such a thing,” John described over the phone.

He also said the Emae people think there is likelihood of loss of livestock such as chicken but that people waited for the ice pebbles to melt away before checking their outer garden crops and livestock.

“But right around the villages, you can still see the endless carpet of the white ice balls.

“When it occurred, you could see white smoke on the top and across the hills,” he described the ice pebbles to the Daily Post.

“I was out fishing and when the heavy rain began to fall with very low cloud, I felt something peculiar was happening, and as I got to shore, I felt very cold and it was very cold that I had never experienced before.

“It was very cold that I rushed home just before the ice pebbles began to fall,” Abel John described his experience of the ice pebbles.

“Women and children remained in the houses while men got out watching the ice pebbles as well as taking photographs as people can see on the Facebook. Yes, the thatched roof houses were damaged as well as the old iron roofing houses,” he said.

Both the Vanuatu National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) and the Department of Vanuatu Meteorological and Geo-hazard Services have confirmed that phenomenon taking place. The NDMO Director Shedrack Welegtebit, told the Daily Post that NDMO Office is waiting for reports from the Department of Agriculture on the damage.

The Department of the Vanuatu Meteorological and Geo-Hazard Services confirmed yesterday afternoon that around mid-afternoon (3pm-4.30pm) on Monday 10th October 2016, there were three confirmed calls from the islands of the Shepherds Group reporting a peculiar weather phenomenon as it is the first of its kind for the elders there and demanded an explanation to “Snow I Foldaon” (Snow Falling Down).

“The Meteorological Term is sleet; half frozen rain as compared to hail which is larger than sleet.

“We are still in our cold and dry season (winter) which is the preferable season for sleet, and the meteorological situation of the day was “a trough of low pressure east of Fiji extended to east of Vanuatu”.

“Cool South Westerly Winds also prevails from surface to the 18300 feet high (surface to 500Pa), as such, the atmospheric temperature profile of the atmosphere is lowered (below normal at about 3000 feet – 1 km) cooler near the surface.

“In other words, the mid-level cloud temperatures and conditions (cooler and constitutes water and ice crystals) substitute those near the surface; mid-level atmosphere at the lower level atmosphere.

“There was also active convection, cumulonimbus clouds (thunder storms clouds) were formed to the west of Shepherds group by 10 am to 11 am pushing eastwards over Mataso, Makira and Emae at around 3pm to 4pm when sleet can no longer float (so to speak) and rained down on the three islands.

“Since the condensation level (level where clouds are practically formed) is lowered, clouds bases heights are also lowered, as latterly mentioned, the cooler air mass does not have enough energy to melt the ice crystals to water (rain/showers) thus they fall like rain,” the Vanuatu Department of Meteorological and Geo-Hazard Services explained yesterday afternoon.

Vanuatu Daily Post
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What happen now after that hailstorm? Did affect anything there/

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