Scary-looking clouds from this week’s storms: what do they mean?

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Tornadoes are not common in June or July. They CAN happen, but they are not as likely because we do not often have the needed wind shear for a thunderstorm to produce one. Occasionally, storms produce look-alikes similar to what Jessie Nelms saw in Mount Hope (Lawrence County) on Wednesday evening:

If I had seen this photo on Easter Sunday of this year (several tornadoes that day) or on one of the classic days like an April 27, 2011 or an April 28, 2014, I’d have said ‘that has to be a tornado.’

On July First?

It could be, but it isn’t.

That’s scud (scattered cumulus under deck) along a shelf cloud.

Here’s another example of an incredible shelf cloud from Tuesday’s storms. It’s very different: not as rough or low to the ground, but the little ragged lower clouds are still attached.

Cindy Burton, Geraldine

The ‘lowerings’ are generally caused by hills: as rain-cooled air spreads out from a storm and rises above the ridges, clouds develop lower in the atmosphere because the air is getting even cooler (closer to the dewpoint) by rising over the hill.

Anyone who has ever been to a Skywarn Storm Spotter Training class will tell you the first rule of reporting a tornado is that you absolutely have to be able to see if it is touching the ground. If you can’t see the ground (trees in the way? hills in the way?), you can’t call it a tornado. There are some exceptions to that rule; that’s the basic idea, though.

Summer storms can bring some of the worst weather you’ll see all year; that doesn’t mean they’re the most intense storms of the year. It just means they’re rough and tough and everybody gets one at some point!

Our odds of rain and storms decrease through the rest of the week and the weekend! Check out the forecast on for the latest on the heat, humidity, and low rain chances.

Looking for the rest of the forecast? It’s always online at and in the “Daily Forecast” section on Live Alert 19!

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