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Preview of things to come; hailstorm rattles south end of San Juan Island

Bill Waxman sent in this photo of Wednesday night
Bill Waxman sent in this photo of Wednesday night's hailstorm and the scene outside his home on the south end of San Juan Island
— image credit: Bill Waxman

Hail. Sleet. Thunder and lighting. Freezing temperatures.

Winter arrived in dramatic fashion as a prolonged -- but isolated -- hailstorm swept across the south end of San Juan Island late Wednesday.

Much of the south end was pummeled by hail the size of frozen peas for 20 minutes or more as temperatures dropped, thunder and lighting rattled the sky, and a narrow -- but volatile -- ban of winter-like weather marched over the island on its way to the mainland beginning at about 11 p.m. Frozen sheets of hail still gripped many of the decks and driveways, and roads, on the south end as of early Thursday morning.

"This morning, the view looks almost like a recent snowfall, which will by the week end be a fairly common appearance according to the weather forecasts," Bill Waxman said of the scene outside his home near the intersection of Cattle Point and Little roads.

Though it packed a punch, Brendan Cowan, director of the Town of Friday Harbor and county Department of Emergency Management, said the storm proved to be a confined blast of arctic weather and that the front dissipated as it approached the mainland. Cowan, who's Friday Harbor home was among those struck by the storm, tracked the path of the storm on the National Weather Service's radar as it made its way across the island.

Still, Cowan believes Wednesday's hailstorm -- though perhaps a surprise to many -- is a preview of things to come. He said forecasters at the National Weather Service expect temperatures to drop into the 20s by Monday or early next week.

"It seems like it was 70 degrees only a couple of weeks ago," Cowan said. "But I think we'll see some snow flurries here and there by the end of the weekend."

-Scott Rasmussen

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