Spooky shelf clouds roll over Lake Superior resort


AU TRAIN, Mich. (WOOD) — A Michigan woman’s video of a massively low shelf cloud may look like a scene from a science fiction thriller, but it is 100 percent real.

Holly Marenger says it was a sweltering 85 humid degrees at Pinewood Lodge Resort in Au Train when she saw the storm moving in over the water. The boiling clouds were dark and thick and hovering right over the surface of the water. She said it looked like a massive wave.

The storm that produced this feature wasn’t necessarily strong, but it was incredibly picturesque.

The combination of unusually high humidity was key to this crazy scene over Lake Superior.

Radar imagery shows the center of the storm passed miles away from Au Train around 9:30 a.m.

This means the cloud that swept the crew at Pinewood Lodge wasn’t so much the storm itself, but instead a shelf cloud spreading out from the storm. Shelf clouds form on the leading edge of a storms as rain-cooled air rushes towards the ground. They often look daunting, but very few are as spooky as the one Au Train.


Meteorologists in the area have a good guess, and the very high humidity in the region plays a big part. 

Usually the air behind a gust front is relatively moist and the air ahead of it is relatively dry. But if they are both very humid the sudden collision of the two will create a lowering cloud. 

That’s what happened Saturday. 

Both the cold air rushing out from the storm and the warm air that was sitting ahead of it were very humid.

So, when these two humid air masses slammed into each other, the swirling and mixing of the two created a very low shelf cloud. So low, it appeared to hover just above the surface of Lake Superior. The chilly 53 degree lake water may have also helped with the illusion by creating fog just below the shelf, making it appear even more daunting.

When it hit, onlookers were smacked with the cool wind and covered in wisps of fog. Marenger said after the rush of wind, the air dropped to a comfortable 65 degrees! 

This storm shows how nature is constantly trying to balance itself out. When things get too hot and too unstable, storms form to bring hot air up into the sky and cold air down to the ground to even out the imbalance.

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