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Storm Moving through the South; Pacific Storm to Impact the West this Weekend

A storm is expected to develop over the southern High Plains today and track to the Mid-Atlantic through Friday with showers and thunderstorms. On the northern edge, snow, ice, and/or a wintry mix is possible over the central Plains. A significant storm is expected to arrive late Friday through the weekend with rain, heavy mountain snow, and gusty winds for much of the West. Read More >

Several reports of funnel clouds were received at the NWS office starting shortly before 1 pm EDT. The first reports came from Interstate 69 near the Dekalb/Steuben county line. An unconfirmed report of a touchdown came in northwest of Waterloo and reports of funnel clouds continued to be reported well into northwestern Ohio. 

Much confusion began to creep up in all forms of social media, including our Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as several media outlets. In addition, several communities set off their warning sirens, We want to try to help explain what happened and how you can tell the difference between funnel clouds, tornadoes and look alike clouds. Before we get to that, let see a quick radar snapshot around the time of the first report. 


KIWX Radar Reflectivity Image

Picture 1: KIWX Reflectivity Image at 1245 pm EDT July 18, 2015

A strong thunderstorm was located to the west of Interstate 69 at the time of this radar image. Just ahead of the storm, a thin blue line can be seen near the Steuben/Dekalb county line. This is the gust front (or outflow boundary) associated with the storm that had moved at least a few miles ahead of it. It was along this feature that the possible funnel clouds were reported. Numerous pictures were shared of turbulent conditions with clouds reported to be moving in all directions and some unique looking structures that appeared to rotate. To complicate thngs, a picture of a funnel cloud that was taken in Texas began to circulate not only on our site, but also several media outlets. The picture has been added below with the original picture and credit for it being found at this link.

Tropical Funnel Cloud

Picture 2: Funnel cloud picture taken in Texas (NWS Amarillo, TX)

While isolated reports of a tree being blown down or uprooted have been received in both Steuben and Dekalb county as well as into NW Ohio, none of the damage suggests there were any touchdowns of these features. Regardless of a warning being issued or sirens being sounded, you should always take the appropriate action to protect yourself if a funnel cloud is observed. To determine if a cloud is truly a funnel cloud, the feaure needs to be watched for several minutes and rotation on a vertical axis (twisting from left to right or in some cases right to left) is observed. Here is 1 picture that was shared with us that shows what some of the clouds may have looked like. What is being observed in this picture is called a "Whale's Mouth" in parts of the spotter and meteorology community. They occur as a result of the rising and sinking motion ahead of a storm and can appear to rotate. Numerous pictures similar to this were posted on our web page. This is NOT a funnel cloud. 


Picture of cloud feature near Butler, Indiana    

Picture 3: Near Butler, IN (Permission from M. Compton)

While this picture has been verified, an abundance of various weather related pictures continue to circulate and expands every day. If you are thinking about sharing a post, use caution, especially if you don't know the original source. 

A series of videos have been created by our office and uploaded to our local YouTube account. A video on Cloud Identifcation is part of this library and can be viewed by clicking here.