Rochester tornado? Strange cloud formation from Friday’s storm explained

Weather Blog

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – Early Friday morning a few gusty downpours raced across the region, one of which was strong enough to become severe warned by the National Weather Service.

As soon as this storm made its way into Rochester and towards the lakeshore, pictures of the storm’s structure and unique cloud formations from viewers started to pour in. It was the formation shown in the photos below that got everyone’s attention, because it was assumed to be a waterspout/tornado by appearance.

Sometimes storm clouds can do some pretty crazy things, and appear more scary than they really are. The clouds above are actually what’s known as “scud” clouds. They’re low lying clouds that end up forming and connecting to the base of the main storm, but are not rotating like a tornado or waterspout would.

This occurs when you have warm, moist air that rises above the cooler air coming out from the main storm’s outflow. When this warm, moist air meets the cooler air it rises and condenses to form a connecting cloud that can get sucked up into the main storm’s updraft. It can almost resembles a giant tentacle coming out of the sky.

These types of clouds grab our attention as meteorologists because many people see these clouds and think that they are waterspouts or tornadoes on the ground. More often than not these clouds appear to resemble large twisters, but in reality are actually pretty harmless.

MaryAngela Messina

If you’re ever in doubt whether or not what you’re seeing is a tornado, ask yourself this: Is this cloud rotating or twisting? If so, it very well may be a tornado or waterspout. If it is NOT spinning, it’s most likely just a scud cloud.

~Meteorologist Christine Gregory

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