Tornado Chasing? Kinda.

28 September, 2007 Ken Everyday Life

tornado.jpg

Yes, this is my photo that I took myself. On my way home from the usual Friday errands, I spotted what looked like a tornado above the HSBC Building (the tallest building in Buffalo, NY).  It seemed to be swirling a little, though there were no mammatas, strange sky color, and that air pressure feel with the wind going in a weird direction.  Maybe a water spout, I thought, but I was too excited to care.  I took a regular and then zoom shot (above).  And people think I’m crazy to always have a camera on me …

But back to the story — I started rushing through city streets trying to get a closer shot.  A minute or so later, and closer to downtown near the Seneca Swan area, it was already at rope stage and quickly disappeared.  I pulled int o a lot to look for more amidst the quite low and turbulent clouds, and the people there said they could see the vortex swirling distinctly, but it never came close to ground.

I submitted the shot (above) to a number of news outlets, and at least Channel 4 used it, as one of my cleints just sent me an email that my name was mentioned.  An email from them clarified the phenomenon:

Thanks very much for the photo, Ken.  That was actually what’s known as a Cold Air Funnel, not a tornado.  They occur more commonly in the autumn when there is cold air aloft over the warm lakes, and some spin in the atmosphere.  Wind velocities are much lower than in a tornado, despite their threatening appearance.

Don Paul
Chief Meteorologist, WIVB WeatherWatch 4

Hey, either way it was exhilarating, and I was hoping to be caught just short of dead in the middle of a real tornado touchdown.  And I definitley wish Merry was with me instead of at work — she always wanted to storm chase.  But for now, I shall be content as an amateur “Cold Air Funnel Chaser”.


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