When is a funnel not a funnel?

Courtesy: Kathryn Flowers
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By: Charles Roop | WCTV Pinpoint Weather
June 7, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — Some in Tallahassee on Wednesday found a cloud in the sky that looked suspicious. Was it a funnel cloud? Was it a tornado? Or was it nothing but a scud?

An image was passed around through social media, taken by Kathryn Flowers, of a cloud feature on Monroe Street south of I-10.

The image to the untrained eye may resemble a funnel cloud - or even a tornado. But a single image may not be enough to tell. It’s important to get a few definitions out of the way.

A tornado - simply - is a violently rotating column of air that is on the ground. If it’s touching the water, it’s a waterspout. Winds associated with a tornado could be as low as 65 mph but can exceed 200 mph. The tweet below shows a tornado that touched down in Wyoming on Wednesday.

A funnel cloud is a rotating column of air that stays above ground. Sometimes funnel clouds do touch the ground and become tornadoes. The image embedded in the tweet is an example of a funnel cloud.

Then, there’s a scud. No, a scud is not an insult that’s used when someone has run out of insults. It’s a type of cloud. And it’s a cloud that’s often confused as a tornado or funnel cloud. The cloud is usually formed by increased moisture in the lower levels. This is what was likely the case with Wednesday’s cloud encounter in Tallahassee. The National Weather Service Forecast Office in Tallahassee also believes it’s the case.

And that’s the difference that the NWS laid out. The cloud would be rotating quickly.

There were no reports of touchdowns in Tallahassee on Wednesday, according to the NWS in another tweet.