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Odd Weather Phenomenon: Funnel Clouds Cause Scare In Michigan Community [PHOTOS]

August 10, 2018 - 1:35 pm

(WWJ) Warning sirens sounded as trio of twisters caused a scare Thursday evening, in a Sanilac County community. 

Residents of Croswell, Michigan, said parents panicked when menacing clouds that formed over football practice began swirling in the sky. 

It certainly looked ominous, but forecasts say these appeared to be landspouts -- weak tornados similar to waterspouts, but forming over land instead of over water.

Local resident Ed DeView posted photos of the phenomena on Facebook, noting: "Three funnel clouds we spotted, with the first just north of town on old 51." 

"Hey Toto....looks like Kansas!" a friend responded; while another wrote, "All the sirens blared for 3 minutes like they should, we heard it and went to the basement."

Meteorologist Sara Pampreen, at the National Weather Service forecast office in White Lake Township, told The Times Herald of Port Huron that it looked more ominous than it was.

"It was a developing shower where the winds turned just right and developed a little funnel cloud," she said. "It wasn’t going to become a tornado. That’s why we didn’t issue a watch or a warning."

Blue Water Area Weather, which provides weather updates to residents of the Blue Water Area, a subregion of the Thumb, theorized that the local fire department activated the siren as a precaution.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Storm Prediction Center, waterspouts and landspouts may look like tornadoes, but they can develop when no thunderstorms are in the area.

“Although waterspouts are always tornadoes by definition; they don't officially count in tornado records unless they hit land,” the SPC said. These fair-weather water or landspouts are more common than their counterpart and can develop under clouds such as those associated with lake-effect rain and snow showers around the Great Lakes.

“They are smaller and weaker than the most intense Great Plains tornadoes but still can be quite dangerous,” the SPC said. Despite being weaker than most tornadoes, they can still be strong enough to due damage to buildings or overturn boats.

In this instance, no property damage or injuries were reported. 

Learn more about different types of funnel clouds from AccuWeather at this link