Friday, August 20, 2010

Apparent funnel cloud caught on camera...

The rotation is seen in a photo sequence I captured (8:05 - 8:08pm) from the parking lot of St. Edmund's parish in Warren. 

Edit August 21, 2010: The Weather Service confirmed that there were two tornados - one of them in the area of 15 & Groesbeck in Clinton Twp, which is where I thought the sirens were coming from at about the time that the wind kicked up.  I recall that what spooked me, was that the skies were clear behind me, yet that is the direction the wind was coming from.  This formation I shot, was that of a dying tornado - the one which crossed that intersection.

Published : Thursday, 19 Aug 2010, 9:02 PM EDT Staff Reports

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. - Metro Detroiters are cleaning up after another round of severe summer storms. Oakland and Northern Macomb counties took the brunt of the blow.

The National Weather Service confirms a tornado touched down at 15 Mile Road and Groesbeck in Clinton Township and another touched down in Shelby Township.

That which I captured is not among the most spectacular of photographs of yesterday's supercell, which left a trail of damage, mostly in Macomb County.  But the sequence does reveal rotation in the clouds.  Read more below...

The sun was shining as I went into a local Kroger, with no sign of storms coming.  15 minutes later, while at the back of the store, I received a text from a weather service telling me that a tornado warning was up for my county.   I dismissed it thinking someone punched in a wrong county code.  Then, I went into checkout, took one look out the window which faced the north, and realized, it was no error.  It was still sunny where I was at, but looking at the outer cloud bands, I could see rotation.  The lightening was intense.

As I drove home, I tossed my cold groceries in, then grabbed my camera and tripod.  I went to a parking lot with a better view thinking, "this is really stupid - that lightening is all hitting the ground".  I literally said my "act of contrition" as I stood in the parking lot of St. Edmund's and shot away.  I was trying to capture lightening and instead snagged a funnel cloud. 

I began shooting north where I saw the lightening.  I had an unusual side view (most storms come from the southwest here, not the northwest traveling southeast)  I normally see the back side of a storm at best when it is south of me.  This was the first time I watched it move from north on a southeast path.  The X is about where I was standing, and you can see the storm cell path.

The sirens were going off northeast of my location where I saw this all. The wind just kicked up out of nowhere and things got spooky.  I looked up, around and behind me and it was still clear, so all of that wind was coming from what I was watching north of me.  As I watched the storm cell shift rapidly to the southeast, I got in my car and drove to the other side of the lot so I could shoot east/southeast.  That is when I spotted the apparent funnel and saw the rotation in the surrounding clouds. 

Rotation in clouds seen in photosequence

If you go to my smugmug page for this storm, single-click each photo first to load it.  After you have done that, you will be able to toggle between the photographs to see the rotation in the clouds.  Try pictures 2-3 first.  Then, rotation is visible in the last 4 photos after it had dissipated (it's best after you have the pics loaded to toggle back and forth between the 5th and 8th photos). These were shot some 15-30 seconds apart.  In all cases, look at the full picture where you can see the outer bands going in one direction at the top, and those where the apparent funnel was traveling going in another direction.

From start to finish, the photo sequence lasted from about 8:05 through 8:08pm.  A friend who lives in St. Clair Shores, which is where I thought it was over when I first spotted it, said it sounded like a freight train.  She lost power for a while.  Looking at the radar map, here is the path circled, and where I was standing. 

There are some really awesome pics by other in this collection at local WXYZ-TV.  Click "photo" above the picture and use the slideshow feature.  Also view the videos. 

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