A midday hail storm pelted the Sonora area Thursday afternoon, turning the landscape white and the roads slick.
Hail started falling about 12:15 p.m. and continued in spurts for about two hours, resulting in at least two auto accidents, one requiring a helicopter evacuation.
About 12:40 p.m., a 2003 Honda Accord heading east on Highway 120, west of O’Byrnes Ferry Road, lost traction and spun onto the north side of the highway, said California Highway Patrol Officer Nick Norton.
The car, driven by Walter Nagano, 78, of Atwater, went 75 feet down an embankment, and hit a tree and a fence before coming to a stop.
Nagano was taken to a Modesto hospital by helicopter, with a laceration to his head and complaints of neck and back pain, CHP reported.
His passenger, Diana Nagano, 69, of Atwater, suffered minor injuries. She complained of rib pain.
A few minutes later, another car spun out in the same area and hit a third car stopped on the side of the highway, Norton said.
Two people in the parked car were preparing to get out and trade positions but, “luckily” hadn’t gotten that far, Norton said.
No injuries were reported, though the cars were damaged. The names of the involved parties were unavailable.
In a separate incident earlier this week, a rear-end collision in Valley Springs caused minor injuries to one woman and major damage to two vehicles about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
According to the California Highway Patrol, Christi Smith, 46, of Valley Springs, was westbound in her 2001 Plymouth Neon on Highway 26 when she stopped to make a left turn onto St. Andrews Road.
Kelly Dickinson, 51, of Valley Springs, was driving west behind Smith in her 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe. When she saw the stopped Plymouth, Dickinson applied the brakes and steered right, but was unable to avoid a collision, the report said.
The left front of the Chevrolet collided with the right rear end of the Plymouth, causing major damage to both vehicles.
Smith was taken to Mark Twain Medical Center in San Andreas with minor injuries, the report said.