Storm story

We had record high temperatures yesterday—it was 92 by the time late afternoon rolled around (and I have the sunburn to prove it). Perhaps not surprisingly, storms soon followed. A line developed at Abline, extending to the northeast. I decided to head west, waiting for the first major cell to pass through Topeka, just to my north.

I waited on an overpass near I-70. Here’s the view to the northwest–you can see the interstate near the center of the photo.

And here’s the view to the west—that’s the edge of the storm, which was set to pass just in front of me.

As I waited and watched to the west, I saw this scene develop.

I immediately assumed I was seeing a debris cloud–meaning a funnel cloud had developed and actually touched down. The only problem was there wasn’t anything tornado-like above it.

I knew the storm was moving to the northeast, and I was in the path of whatever it was I was looking at. Once I remembered how to put my car in gear, I decided to move. I admit I was more than a bit concerned, and moving the car meant taking my eyes off of what was happening. My windows were down, and the wind was roaring. When my ears popped, I nearly panicked.

As I moved south, I got a better view. There was still no apparent rotation above, just a ground-level disturbance below.

At this point, the storm was between me and my family, and I called Bryan to let him know what I was seeing.  I knew it wasn’t a tornado, but it wasn’t like anything I’d seen before. Fortunately, he had just heard reports of such disturbances on the local news, noting they were likely caused by the nearly 60 mph straight line winds in the area.

Today, I learned this phenomenon is called a “gustnado.” Apparently, it’s a specific type of short-lived, low-level cyclonic cloud that can form in a severe thunderstorm. At least a couple were reported in the area.

So while my search for my first Kansas tornado will continue, I can cross “gustnado” off my list!

8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Doug Smith on April 5, 2011 at 5:28 am

    Great adventure, great science, Rebecca. What will you say when Ava and Olivia want to be storm chasers? Excellent photography and story line.

  2. Posted by Rebecca's Mom on April 5, 2011 at 8:18 am

    “Too much information!”

    I keep thinking you will outgrow this phase.

  3. Posted by Rebecca on April 5, 2011 at 8:44 am

    Mom, it was just wind…

  4. I appreciate this post Rebecca…I always tell people that you are a storm chaser.

  5. Posted by Rebecca's Mom on April 5, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Rebecca: “Mom, it was just wind . . .”

    Rebecca’s Mom: Yes, this time it was just wind. But, you know what happened to Dorothy!

  6. Posted by Rebecca on April 5, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    She got a great pair of shoes and a free vacation?

  7. Posted by Karyl on April 5, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    I have to agree with your Mom on this one, Rebecca – I was going to comment earlier, but bit my tongue – but, since your Mom opened up this part of the discussion – I must say, that, despite your awe of terrible storms, your husband and daughters would be sorely missing you, should you be caught up in one of these gust or tornados!

  8. Posted by Rebecca on April 6, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Duly noted, Moms. 😉

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