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What's the difference?

With severe weather becoming more common now that warmer temps are on the way nationwide, there's some misconceptions about severe weather that need to be explained. First, there's typically some misunderstandings about tornado damage versus straight-line wind damage. After severe storms moved on through, damage from both can look very similar. 

With tornado damage, most of what you see is debris that is scattered everywhere. It's been described as a bomb going off at times, if the tornado is strong enough. Thanks to the swirling motion created inside the twister, trees, cars, or anything else in the path of the tornado is twisted and can even be tied in knots as the wind direction quickly changes. Straight-line damage is a little easier to determine, thanks to the trees. Damage survey teams can easily look at the orientation of the fallen trees, since they typically fall in the same direction.

Another misconception is the determining the difference between a "scud" cloud and a wall cloud. 

"Scud" clouds are very low-level cloud fragments that are leftover from dying storms. Typically, they are so low that they can be misunderstood as a funnel cloud or even a tornado. It's especially frightening when these scud clouds are found under the base a strong to severe thunderstorm. But, they are not a sign of an incoming tornado.

A wall cloud, however, is a much different story. The wall cloud is a lowering of a section of the thunderstorm cloud. Scud usually moves much faster than a wall cloud. You will always find the wall cloud at the bottom of the thunderstorm, closest to the surface. When you see a wall cloud, it's time to get to your safe spot and stay there until the "all clear" is given. 

You can learn more about these differences and more at a NWS Severe Weather Spotter Training class. There's one more left in our area. Here's the information:

April 12th 7-9 PM

Valparaiso University, 1700 Chapel Dr, Valparaiso, IN 46383, USA
Neil's Science Center Tiered Classroom 234

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