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LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – Several viewers called and emailed WHNT News 19 to report seeing a tornado Tuesday afternoon in western Limestone County. Our meteorology team says what they were seeing was actually a scud cloud.

Weather discussions usually involve complicated atmospheric terms but, “Scud is pretty easy to explain,” says WHNT News 19 Meteorologist Brandon Chambers.

Meteorologist Brandon Chambers works on his WHNT New 19 at Noon forecast (Photo: David Wood)
Meteorologist Brandon Chambers works on his WHNT New 19 at Noon forecast (Photo: David Wood)

“It’s basically just low-hanging clouds below the main cloud deck. A lot of times they look ominous because they’re near a thunderstorm a lot of times so people are already on edge. They have sometimes a rope-like appearance or maybe they resemble a wall cloud –  a lot of times they are rising up into the storm so they often get mistaken for something more ominous.”

Fun Fact: The official term for scud is ‘fractus cloud’

Scud essentially is just moisture in the atmosphere rising up into a cloud base – so it doesn’t even register on sophisticated radar.

“The scud clouds that you see a lot of times with thunderstorms really pose no threat to us here on the surface of the earth.”

Sure, because scud clouds are usually associated with strong thunderstorms other threats could linger. But Chambers says don’t let these faux twisters fool you. We always encourage our viewers to be a part of our on-the-scene team, sending us photos of weather where you live – so don’t feel bad if you have been duped by ominous clouds . It’s part of our job to help distinguish the serious from the scud.

“It’s a big part of our job,” Chambers reiterates, “not just to tell people when the worst is going to happen but to tell people when the worst isn’t happening.”