Rotating wall cloud sparked Sunday tornado warnings

Monday, June 11, 2018
A rotating wall cloud develops late Sunday afternoon over the fields of western Putnam County.
Courtesy photo

MORTON -- It never became a tornado. It was never even a funnel cloud.

However, the rotating wall cloud that rolled through Putnam County Sunday afternoon was a serious weather situation.

Sparking warnings that first went into effect shortly before 4:30 p.m. and lasting until 5:15 p.m., the storm provided for some tense moments for residents of northern and central Putnam County.

Severe weather specialist Chris Edwards of the Putnam County Emergency Management Agency was out observing the storm and first noticed the wall cloud northwest of U.S. 231 and U.S. 36.

"It had some rapid rotation at times," Edwards said.

The key to the storm not developing further, Edwards said, has to do with wind speeds within the storm as well as how low the rotation gets.

"The stronger that rotation is up in the storm, the more likely it is to descend to the ground," he said.

Edwards never saw that rotation get to the ground, noting that it stayed 200-300 feet above ground, with some rotating clouds that were occasionally just above the tree tops.

Still, with speeds of 55-60 miles per hour measured, there was damage, though it appears to not have affected any structures.

"There were numerous scattered tree limbs," Edwards said. "A couple of larger trees were snapped at the ground around 800 North and 500 West."

From the spot north of Morton where the wall cloud was first spotted, it tracked due east, though it continued to stay well above the ground.

Furthermore, in going back to assess the damage, Edwards could find no evidence of strong enough activity to indicate a tornado.

In the area north of Morton, there was a tree blown down north to south, while corn was damaged by winds from west to east.

"That would indicate at least some weak converging winds, but not a tornado," Edwards said, adding that the damage was also not concentrated enough to indicate a tornado.

"Multiple trees were blown down over a wide area, nothing too concentrated," Edwards said.

He was also happy that Sunday's event, no matter how serious, happened in an area mostly free of structures.

"It was in a good spot where it was mainly in an open field and very few structures to worry about," Edwards said. "Those are the ideal areas if you're going to have a storm."

Although Sunday's tornado warnings did not, in the end, indicate a tornado, Edwards urged residents to enact their emergency plans when warnings are issued.

"It's always important to heed the warnings. Half to three-quarters of warnings are false alarms, but those warnings shouldn't be taken for granted," he said. "It's just best to heed the safety advice from officials and stay at home."

One hidden blessing to it all is the amount of rain that came with the storm.

"We had 2.5-3 inches of rain, which was welcome. We were in a drought until yesterday," Edwards said.

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  • Good work EMA and CERT weather spotters !

    -- Posted by Rainbow6 on Tue, Jun 12, 2018, at 9:39 AM
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