Bill Steffen: Funnel cloud spotted near Portland

Ionia County

PORTLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — A funnel cloud passed harmlessly over Eastern Ionia County Tuesday evening.

The funnel occurred around 7:15 pm Tuesday, just south of Portland.

In the picture above (from Sue Lewis-Spitzley and her grandson), the funnel is obscured by a tree. We can’t tell from this picture if the funnel is touching the ground (then it would be a tornado).

Funnel cloud – pic. from Connie Huhn southwest of Portland MI 8 6 19

Here’s another view of the funnel. It appears to be well above the ground. A very thin tornado or funnel is sometimes called a “rope”.

This picture was taken by Connie Huhn, taken near the intersection of Clarksville Road and Keefer Road.

Here is a link to more picutes of the funnel and two more funnel pics.

The funnel developed beneath the updraft of a relatively small shower. Here’s what radar looked like at the time:

Radar at 7:15 pm Tuesday evening

I can’t say for sure, but it looks like the funnel came from the yellow area west of Danby (south of Portland) on the map.

If you look at a radar movie, this is where the color went from light green to dark green to yellow (seen above) to orange in a short time. So, there was an updraft there that was producing the funnel.

In a situation like this, the National Weather Service does not automatically issue a tornado warning.

We know that this was a small shower, with a relatively weak updraft. It was not going to produce a moderate or strong tornado.

It’s possible/likely that the circulation in this funnel was below severe thunderstorm threshold (58 mph).

Rather than issue a tornado warning for a relatively large area – the NWS will watch radar…they may have a spotter watching the funnel.

In a moment they could pull the cord and issued a tornado warning. In this case, the funnel dissipated in a few minutes as expected.

You might remember the tornado that came into “downtown” Portland on June 22, 2015.

When I watch the video at the link, I keep wanting to tell those cars not to go that way! They’re driving right into the tornado! Note in the video

That twister was rated an EF1 and had peak winds of 100 mph. Here’s a map of the path of that tornado:

It touched down around 2:30 p.m. about two miles northwest of Portland and traveled about four miles with a maximum width of between 50 and 100 yards. The tornado lifted about 10 minutes after it touched down.

A dozen businesses, four churches and more than 70 homes in the eastern Ionia County town were damaged by that tornado.

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