Wednesday Thunderstorms And Possible Downburst

Some strong storms pushed through the region today with some interesting weather phenomena occurring along the way. As I was monitoring these storms I was very alarmed to see that around 5:10 PM that the Allen County Airport recorded a 68 mph wind gust from a thunderstorm that had otherwise stayed pretty tame and below severe limits. In a typical severe weather outbreak I wouldn’t be shocked by a 68 mph wind. But on a day like today when the only other highest wind gust I saw was 40 mph, 68 mph sticks out like a sore thumb. I took a look back at the radar imagery after the storm had passed and saw something very interesting. By using our 3D radar imagery, we can see that the reflectivity was very high on this storm as it was moving NE towards the Allen County Airport. With the 3D layer of the radar, the higher the reflectivity in the storm (dBZ values) the higher the storm will appear to rise on the radar screen. You can see here that this particular storm towered over other storms in the area, clearly showing that this was one of the stronger ones at about 4:50 PM.


Only 20 minutes later, this storm moved over the airport and had lost almost all of it’s intensity from earlier. You can see that at about 5:10 PM this storm is barely showing any height at all on the 3D radar. It died off very quickly!


This leads me to believe that what we had here was a brief downburst over the airport region as the storm died. Basically in a downburst a bunch of rain cooled air from a thunderstorm rushes to the ground, collapsing the storm ultimately leading to its dissipation. This is confirmed with several reports of power lines down around the Allen County Airport area along with viewer reports of a tree and branches down in Westminster. When and if a storm will collapse like this is almost utterly impossible to forecast. But in retrospect, radar shows that a downburst is the likely culprit over Eastern Allen County earlier Wednesday.

We also saw A LOT of low level scud clouds over West Central Ohio during our Wednesday afternoon storms. I took a picture of these clouds around 4:45 at the TV station. The scud clouds are off in the bottom left corner. They are the low hanging clouds that are VERY often mistaken for a funnel cloud or possible tornado. Scud clouds are mostly harmless, people often mistake scud clouds for a funnel cloud due to the fact that sometimes these low hanging clouds appear to be rising up into the parent cloud very quickly but they are NOT rotating. That is the biggest thing to look for when you think you may see a funnel cloud, ROTATION! And it’s not just slow rotation, it’s usually a very quick spinning rotation that is hard to miss. So don’t be afraid or alarmed if you see Scud clouds in the future, they’re harmless!


We also had some nice shots of a Shelf Cloud from the St. Marys area from Bob Warren. A shelf cloud is formed when cold outflow from a thunderstorm rushes out ahead of its parent storm creating this wedge shape cloud structure.

Shelf Cloud

If you see one of these headed your way get ready for a cool burst of wind followed by some rain as the thunderstorm moves overhead! These clouds are mostly harmless as well, but can produce damaging winds in some cases.

Hopefully you find this as interesting as I do 🙂





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