Watauga County Funnel Cloud Sunday 6/12/11

Sunday evening when the second wave of thunderstorms entered the North Carolina mountains some very interesting pictures were taken near Foscoe in Watauga county. Now I get pictures like this all the time and about 75% of the time they are non-tornadic scud clouds. Something about this was different. They came from a reliable source and the photographer saw rotation. Not to mention because of the mountains you can get a good gauge of just how close to the ground these were. The following pictures were taken by Mark Feichter and relayed to me via Kenneth Reece and the Watauga Road conditions Facebook page. Here is the series of pictures Mark took between 5:07pm and 5:15pm.

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The first several pictures show what clearly appears to be a funnel cloud or scud cloud. The rotation according to Mark was slow but steady. In the last three it appears a full fledged funnel has formed and you can make out what appears to be a wall cloud too. It’s hard to say with still pictures but they are very intriguing. At first glance I might say these were from outflow only and possibly and “gustnado” but looking at the Doppler data there clearly was rotation in that area around that time.

Doppler Radar Images out of Blacksburg, VA


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Now the last image clearly shows rotation right over the area the pictures are from. The left side of these images is the Doppler velocity mode and the right is the reflectivity mode. The velocities show green colors as winds blowing towards the radar in VA and the red is away from the radar site. There is very broad rotation but that is more an artifact of the radar beam being so wide at this distance. The closest radar is 95 miles away from this point, which means the radar beam is looking at 9200 feet in the atmosphere and the radar beam is very wide. So the radar data isn’t very conclusive but coupled with the pictures and eyewitness accounts I would not doubt that there was a brief funnel cloud or weak tornado. This will take more investigation and the National Weather Service is aware of the the photos and they are looking into it. I’ll keep you posted.