Tornado Funnel Cloud

We headed home late in the afternoon after visiting our daughters in southeast Iowa. A small thunderstorm was leaving the area we drove north of the town of Mt. Pleasant. We hadn’t paid attention to the weather notices since we were busy visiting. A severe storm watch had been issued. This small storm looked quite energetic. I remarked how the trailing part of a storm is often where funnel or tornado activity originates. Thank you spotter training 101. In all my years of watching weather, I have not seen a tornado in real time.


We approached the rear of the storm as we drove north. The arrow in this radar map shows our location. The sky was bright to the west and dark to the east. A few cloud formations appeared low to the northwest. I was not driving the car and watched one funnel shape in particular. It was small and rotating very fast. We pulled to the side of the road to avoid driving into the path of it in case it got to the ground. It broke up.

We drove another mile and watched the same cloud form another funnel. This one was larger and longer. We pulled off the main highway to a side road for a better and safer view. The funnel was but a half mile away, still to our northwest. Full screen gives a more detailed view.

I called the NWS reporting phone number to give them details on location and movement they need to issue warnings. We watched the storms later as they moved into Illinois. Some storms caused heavy rains and hail. Extensive tornado damage occurred in the small town of Cameron about 30 miles east of where we watched this funnel.

27 thoughts on “Tornado Funnel Cloud

  1. Glad to hear you’re safe, Jim. We have only seen tornadoes once. It was in Lawrence, Kansas about 1976 when two of them danced across the horizon south of our house. We came close to experiencing one here in Joplin on May 22, 2011 when the EF-5 hit, but that was in the evening, at dusk, and it was too dark. It hit about 3 miles south of the house, just a black horizon to us. We only got gusts and a brief spattering of hail at our place. One of the most impressive results of it was the destruction of a branch bank in its path. The bank was totally gone, ceiling, walls, furniture, everything – except for the steel vault. It was left on the concrete slab, a strange-looking cube! A Dillons grocery store nearby was also taken down to the slab.

    • I do remember that Joplin storm. It was horrible for the community. Glad you were not in the path. I saw some programs as follow-up of that one. A tornado is fascinating. But, ones like that are frightening.

  2. The prettiest funnel cloud film I have seen! Very nice! I’ve only seen a few of these – a couple in my youth while disking fields in N. Illinois and one some years back SW of Iowa City. The NWS might like this video…

  3. Cool and thanks for sharing the view of the funnel, Jim and Melanie. I wouldn’t mind seeing one myself but only if it was life your experience…from a distance and it stays airborne. We have had a couple of tornadoes nearby over the years. Springfield, MA, Wilbraham and Monson took a great deal of damage from one a few years back. Many folks are still recovering and waiting for the assistance promised. When I drive there it is amazing how many trees still need to be cleaned up in residential areas.

    • “Many folks are still recovering and waiting for the assistance promised.” That is awful. And all too common. Help or don’t help, but don’t tell people you will and then fail to keep your promises. bah…

  4. Nice footage.

    When I moved to Florida I was surprised at how many tornadoes there are in this area. Though I have not seen one myself, one did hit and bounce off an apartment building about 1/4 mile from our house. The building looked normal except two units on which you could see the contents of their living rooms.

    I have seen quite a few funnel clouds but none that touched down.

  5. Impressive weather. I heard a lightning strike took out the new eagle nest tree in Decorah.

    • I just read about that. It seems a windstorm was what damaged several trees including the main branch with the nest and camera. The post said the 3 eaglets and mom were accounted for. Dad is not yet. But, they are not concerned yet for him.

  6. I’ve never had a close encounter with a tornado, although I’ll see a funnel cloud now and then, and I’ve seen plenty of impressive waterspouts over the years. They generally stay away from shore, although one came onto the Galveston seawall a few years ago and tore up some roofs.

    Have you ever taken a look at the chaser sites? Someone recently said there may well be more injuries from auto accidents than from storms when those folks get rolling. The number of people who have decided following tornadoes is a good idea seems to have increased exponentially — due partly to social media sharing, I’m sure. 🙂

    • Waterspouts must be interesting to watch. I’ve seen some video. Aren’t they mostly water vapor with mist stirred into the air?

      Yes, I’ve seen some chaser sites. Some are doing legit research and follow careful practices. It is still very dangerous. One reason is the driving. The other is the unpredictable nature of the storms. Two very experienced chasers were trapped and killed a couple of years ago when their car was in the wrong place as the tornado turned.

      • I remember that. Tim and Paul Samaras, and another man. It was that El Reno, OK, storm. Mike Bettes got hurt, too. They do such important work, but there aren’t any guarantees.

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