Funnel cloud or faux funnel cloud
Storms rolling through created a striking sight above campus on Wednesday night
Published: Friday, May 11, 2012
Updated: Saturday, May 12, 2012 17:05
NEW WILMINGTON, Pa.-- A twisted fire in the sky of sorts appeared over campus and New Wilmington on Wednesday evening at sundown. Westminster College biology student Lianna DeFuria grabbed her cell phone and snapped a picture of it as the bright sky darkened.
Showers and storms had punctuated the day in Lawrence and Mercer counties, but a break in the weather allowed DeFuria to head to Brittain Lake with a friend. They were fishing with the bright colors of the setting sun appearing on the horizon. That's when the dark and the light seemed to collide and what looked like a funnel cloud formed over campus.
The strange cloud formation prompted DeFuria to pull out her cell phone to take a picture.
“We were pretty far away on the other side of the lake," DeFuria said. "I zoomed in and I had to be very still to take it.”
She posted it on Facebook and her friends made comments. Some called it beautiful. Others said it was scary.
What was this cloud that was strikingly beautiful and frightening? We shared the image with Fred McMullen at the Pittsburgh operations of the National Weather Service (NWS). While storms popped up in the area and the NWS issued alerts for local communities, there was no danger. McMullen confirmed the cloud in DeFuria's picture was not a funnel cloud.
“This is either a fire in the distance or stratus fractus,” McMullen explained. “When we look for funnel clouds we look for a wall cloud with the funnel attached. This storm does not have a wall cloud. However it is a great example of a look-a-like.”
McMullen said status fractus is commonly known as a scud cloud. They are shreds of low clouds that appear for a short time before, during after it rains.
DeFuria’s picture is a great example of how ordinary people are taking some extraordinary pictures with their cell phones. The technology has evolved to allow a small pocket device to capture such stunning images.