A funnel cloud like this is a rotating column of air that is not reaching the ground. Condensation occurs as air rises in the funnel giving it a distinguishing color. Here, the funnel is a dark gray against a lighter background. It may look a bit darker because the sun is shining behind the photographer. From a different angle, this funnel cloud may look light gray or off-white.
Funnels can be vertical (up and down) or slanted. This is probably the same funnel – very up and down here.
The question is…how dangerous is this situation? Meteorologists at the local (Grand Rapids) National Weather Service are responsible for issuing severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings. Pictures and video of funnel clouds is most appreciated. They look at radar to see the situation – both the characteristics of the shower or storm producing the funnel and the overall weather parameters.
Today, we had numerous showers and embedded thundershowers. These were relatively low-topped thundershowers, not the bigger storms that produce stronger updrafts and a greater tornado danger.
Sometimes these funnel clouds can touch down, but winds in the funnel are weak (perhaps under 40 or 50 mph). In this particular situation, a touchdown would produce little significant or no damage. It’s hardly worth sounding the sirens and causing the disruption that a tornado warning would produce (events canceled). You also run the risk of “crying wolf syndrome”. If you issue too many tornado warnings and nothing happens, people tend to ignore the warnings.
Here’s a possible 2nd funnel cloud – picture taken by Ashley Osborn. This was taken at the corner of Algoma and 13 mile in Rockford, facing northwest at 4:24 pm.
I think the NWS does an excellent job of issuing warnings when there is a significant threat. They on occasion issue a Severe Thunderstorm Warning that includes language mentioning the threat of an isolated (weak) tornado. That’s in the wording of the warning.
Keep in mind that Friday PM, a greater threat may be lightning. It’s Football Frenzy and fans sit in aluminum grandstands – not a good place to be when there is cloud-to-ground lightning. We also have a Flood Advisory for parts of Kent and E. Ottawa Counties, where significant rain has occurred today. I had 1.00″ of rain at my house Friday. Other rainfall totals: 3.41″ Lake Orion (SE Michigan), 2.91″ Belding, 2.74″ Belmont, 1.94″ Fremont, 1.78″ Rockford, 1.41″ Spring Lake, 1.41″ Jamestown, 1.36″ Hudsonville, 1.30″ Battle Creek, 1.05″ Ionia, 0.98″ Grand Rapids (Ford Airport), 0.88″ Lansing, 0.32″ Kalamazoo, 0.26″ Muskegon, 0.26″ Big Rapids, 0.21″ Holland (airport). Flood Advisories were issued for parts of Ottawa, Kent, Ionia, Montcalm and Jackson Counties.
Preliminary Spotter Report — from Jeremy McNaughton (via spotternetwork.org) @ 21:46 UTC — (S) Flood — — Spotter is 2 miles NW of JAMESTOWN, MI (Ottawa county) [42.842/-85.863] — Underpass on 32 Ave in Hudsonville, Michigan is closed due to flood waters up to police officers knees. Here’s Storm Total Rainfall.
Pea-sized hail was also reported on the west side of Kalamazoo and near Fort Wayne IN.
Watch for patchy fog early Saturday.
ALSO: Six fatalities in SE Brazil from sandstorms. Oct. 8 is the anniversary of the famous Peshtigo (Wisconsin) wildfire. It was the deadliest fire in U.S. history. A bible opened to Psalms 106/107 survived the fire. It was the same night as the deadly Chicago fire.