Tornado and funnel look-alike examples

Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
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St. Louis
stormhighway.com
Going through images tonight, I got the idea to start compiling a list of some tornado and funnel look-alikes that might be helpful for spotter training. I'll add to this thread if I find any other good ones.

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- July 9, 2012 - Slowly rising non-rotating scud 'shark's tooth' on a gust front.

46afc2760914c93c6da054e69a03b509.jpg
- May 20, 2010 - Knob Noster, MO - One of the most convincing funnel look-alikes I've personally seen, about 2 miles east of a tornado-warned supercell on a cold core day (at this time a supercell is in the opposite direction, behind me). This feature was located south of a new updraft from storms progressively developing eastward along an occluded frontal boundary.

f35f1bf8ae74849587cb061f57b2014d.jpg 0d3dace4f500bc4484ff3277c4c1d8a9.jpg e5bf2e67cc5f40499173569896378972.jpg
- May 20, 2010 - Sedalia, MO - Fog tendrils reaching from ground to cloud base near the updraft of a rapidly weakening supercell. I saw this feature about 20 minutes after an actual tornado, produced by the same storm. No rotation or rising motion, just fog hanging in mid-air and barely moving.

cd5b2a6e5e62215f0e4129102575ec0f.jpg
June 11, 2004 - Bancroft, IA - Non-rotating outflow feature.
 
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Jeff Duda

Resident meteorological expert
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Oct 7, 2008
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The thing about "tornado look-alikes" is that all one usually sees in training is a frozen image. Even a seasoned spotter/chaser might think of some of those images without any context and without motion. However, give them a radar update and synoptic scale setup with a moving image and the accuracy will improve to nearly 100% even for novice spotters/chasers.
 
Dec 18, 2010
137
0
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Florida Panhandle
S1051827.jpg

5-30-10, six.jpg

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The rain shaft was taken in low light and illuminated only once by lightning with a couple of return strokes. You can see the foot extending to the left.
The other two are rising scud with no rotation.
 
Thought I would revive this thread after a couple I saw yesterday in NM. To get position on the storm I had to drive some distance through a canyon where I could not see the cloud base, only the top. When I finally got up out of the canyon, this is what I saw:

IMG_2768-e.jpg IMG_2751-e.jpg

These were taken looking WNW from a few miles west of Mosquero, NM. I was excited at first and thought I might have a large tornado, but I knew I was too far away to tell, and given the storm's location as I could see on my phone radar (which finally worked again once I was out of the canyon), there were probably spotters closer who would have reported it if indeed it was a large tornado. The storm at this time was somewhere a little SE of Wagon Mound - 30-40 miles away, past a ridge that allowed me to see the base of the storm, but not all the way to the ground. When I got closer and could see the entirety of similar features, it became evident that what was actually happening was that condensation was forming just above a series of microbursts/rainfeet, and then being drawn up into the supercell's updraft. A very dramatic process to witness, but not tornadoes. This supercell was a prolific hailer and probably produced some pretty intense straight-line winds in thinly-populated areas, but almost certainly no tornadoes.
 

Tim Paitz

EF2
Apr 27, 2015
190
53
11
St. Louis, Missouri
Going through images tonight, I got the idea to start compiling a list of some tornado and funnel look-alikes that might be helpful for spotter training. I'll add to this thread if I find any other good ones.

d4aec3e509ffea870516f0abb42430ef.jpg
- July 9, 2012 - Slowly rising non-rotating scud 'shark's tooth' on a gust front.

46afc2760914c93c6da054e69a03b509.jpg
- May 20, 2010 - Knob Noster, MO - One of the most convincing funnel look-alikes I've personally seen, about 2 miles east of a tornado-warned supercell on a cold core day (at this time a supercell is in the opposite direction, behind me). This feature was located south of a new updraft from storms progressively developing eastward along an occluded frontal boundary.

f35f1bf8ae74849587cb061f57b2014d.jpg 0d3dace4f500bc4484ff3277c4c1d8a9.jpg e5bf2e67cc5f40499173569896378972.jpg
- May 20, 2010 - Sedalia, MO - Fog tendrils reaching from ground to cloud base near the updraft of a rapidly weakening supercell. I saw this feature about 20 minutes after an actual tornado, produced by the same storm. No rotation or rising motion, just fog hanging in mid-air and barely moving.

cd5b2a6e5e62215f0e4129102575ec0f.jpg
June 11, 2004 - Bancroft, IA - Non-rotating outflow feature.





Didn't you have one on your blog that featured a convincing lookalike behind a shelf cloud when you went out chasing in the plains back in May of 2014?
 
Dec 8, 2003
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I looked at all the images posted on that http://www.stormeyes.org/tornado/faq/notahose.htm page that Dave Kaplow referenced, and I wish I knew the date of those two from Denver in 1999 (about ¾ of the way down), because if it was June 10 it was the storm that began my chasing career. This image is a vidcap of the FIRST FRAME of video I ever shot.... from that very same storm, perhaps? It was also NOT a tornado, though I didn't know that at the time!

990610_2124Z.jpg

On May 27, 2001, still a noob, I caught these images right over Dodge City. I reported this feature as a tornado on ST, and when I later learned it was NOT a tornado I found the humor in my mistake and assumed the ST username "ScudStudBob" for years until real names became required.

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Dan Ross

EF0
Jan 8, 2016
32
41
11
Fort Collins, CO
Many of these are very convincing. I recall on some of my first chases debating with myself whether or not I had seen a funnel cloud. I think for someone new to chasing/spotting, the most important thing to realize is that no matter how pointy, vertical, and/or low to the ground a cloud is, if it isn't spinning, then it's simply not a developing tornado. Images then, lacking motion, can be very misleading and are in my opinion far less valuable than videos for spotter training purposes. On the contrary, if viewing from a great distance, cloud motion can be difficult to discern, in which case images would be more helpful. They can still show structural/contextual clues in the clouds that help a spotter to make an educated decision regarding a possible funnel cloud.
 

calvinkaskey

Guest
Feb 17, 2014
384
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Inflow into a minimally severe but fairly rapidly rotating supercell in New York. Behind it I'd bet money there was a real funnel but I was so focused on the front feature. Tornado warning just 5 minutes before and several funnels reported with this supercell with a later tornado in an associated line.
 

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Apr 10, 2008
259
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Decatur IL
www.pawleewurx.com
July 12, 2011 - SC IL, a 'non-rotating funnel' that I jokingly labeled at the time but would seem fitting for an area of condensation along a stalled boundary being drawn straight up yet not show signs of turning. It would dissipate soon after this shot as I'm guessing the vertically ascending parcel reached peak altitude which resulted in its demise given the stagnant wind fields. A personal head scratcher and candidate for this thread that I regret not having video of as the upward motion was impressive.

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Mar 27, 2014
49
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Kansas City Mo
@John Farley that first photo is awesome it really looks like a mean stovepipe.

This one has an interesting story. I had no data for this entire chase, so I sent this image and many others to a friend and told him he could post them on social media. After the chase I called my buddy and according to him after he posted this photo, either the TWC or Weather Nation ( I cant remember which one) took the photo and claimed a tornado was on the ground. My friend quickly corrected them. Has this happened to anyone else?
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Jun 28, 2007
246
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Machesney Park, IL
The 6-5-09 Wyoming/Nebraska storm went on to produce a couple of interesting features after the Goshen tornado. The first two actually exhibited very slight rotation but were nothing more than funnel shaped scud, the last was an instant attention grabber but was ultimately only a wicked looking scud bomb.

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Mar 8, 2016
176
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Bloomington, IL
I know it's going to be hard to tell with an image as bad as this one, but this is more likely scud than a funnel yes? I took the picture a few years back as a thunderstorm that kept us from climbing that day passed by:
ec9746103730372e1ac4a4ad78eb183e.jpg
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Apologies for the awful quality, it was taken with an old cellphone at the time. Sacramento NWS office said that they couldn't see any rotation in the area on radar, but then again it's really hard to determine anything about storm where I work because densely packed wind farms look like a blob on radar:
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Tim Paitz

EF2
Apr 27, 2015
190
53
11
St. Louis, Missouri
20160728_132034.jpg 20160728_132039.jpg My pix from yesterday weren't showing up on my screen so that's why I deleted it.

I'll try again. Like I said, this is Springfield, Illinois on a day where there was an SWS on funnel clouds in central Illinois.


This is smoke from the water treatment plant
 
I've seen a few pretty convincing ones, but the best example I've witnessed is this ground scraping shelf cloud that formed south of my house on July 20th, 2015. Was on the north side of a complex of messy storms. Sometimes I like to refer to it as my own picture of Rochelle...lol.
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Jun 18, 2017
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Tennessee
In East Tennessee, there are plenty of cases which scuds or similar features are mistaken for tornadoes (and vice versa). There's one case involving a, what I suspected, mini supercell back in October 2010. It was tor-warned while I was still in chess club meet. The point was an apparent funnel cloud was sighted at a nearby downtown. The picture was on the front page of newspapers, and I think I kept that copy. It looked rather scuddyyet descending, but I wasn't sure if it was confirmed as an actual funnel cloud. Sorry, I don't have a photo of the apparent funnel cloud online. On the other hand, somebody told me a story of unintentionally driving into a tornado in Middle Tennessee. She told me that she was driving some chess club members to a tourney at Nashville, and she was a storm spotter herself. That prompted me to wonder if the tornado was probably rain wrapped or too scuddy to be recognized until too late.