Was it a tornado or not?

Photo: Pablo DeSantiago
Friday, May 10, 2013 - 7:54pm

The unusual storm that hit the Borderland Friday evening appeared to many to be a funnel cloud and/or tornado.  But,  it was actually a "gustnado." 

There were multiple reports of a funnel cloud and tornado-like event, but according to Local 4 News Chief Meteorologist Robert Bettes and the National Weather Service it was a weather phenomenon known as a gustnado.  The gustnado is a short-lived, low-level rotating cloud that can form during a severe thunderstorm.

Additionally, the storm produced hail in parts of the Borderland. 

As of 6:10 p.m., no damage had been reported from the gustnado. 


National Weather Service definition of a gustnado: A slang term for a short-lived, ground-based, shallow, vortex that develops on a gust front associated with either thunderstorms or showers. They may only extend to 30 to 300 feet above the ground with no apparent connection to the convective cloud above. They may be accompanied by rain, but usually are 'wispy', or only visible as a debris cloud or dust whirl at or near the ground. Wind speeds can reach 60 to 80 mph, resulting in significant damage, similar to that of a F0 or F1 tornado. However, gustnadoes are not considered to be a tornado, and some cases, it may be difficult to distinguish a gustnado from a tornado. Gustnadoes are not associated with storm-scale rotation (i.e. mesocyclones) that is involved with true tornadoes; they are more likely to be associated visually with a shelf cloud that is found on the forward side of a thunderstorm.    


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