Thunderstorm, With A Twist

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Storms

An apparent funnel cloud photographed last Wednesday. The photographer placed the cloud formation southeast of Chatham. PHOTO COURTESY JONATHAN PALINO, CAPE KAYAKING

CHATHAM A thunderstorm moving through the area last Wednesday came with a new twist: an apparent funnel cloud.

Jonathan Palino of Cape Kayaking was leading a group of paddlers in a tour of Nauset Marsh in Eastham, when, on his return trip, they spotted the cloud formation. Palino said he placed the funnel cloud quite far away, probably in a position in the Atlantic southeast of Chatham.

“It formed and it dissipated in less than three minutes,” Palino said. He observed no wind at his location. “We were so far away from where that cloud formed that we did not hear anything but the thunderstorm in a different location from the cloud,” he said. He made the observation and snapped a cell phone photo on Aug. 15 at around 11:50 a.m.

When a funnel cloud touches the water, it is called a waterspout; when it contacts the land, it is a tornado.

Bill Simpson of the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Norton, Mass., said the photo appears to show a funnel cloud, though weather radar showed no signs of cloud rotation in the area at that time. But such occurrences can be extremely localized, and may be low enough to the ground that they do not register on radar, Simpson added.

Officials say this funnel cloud appeared to be either very weak or had either just formed or was just about to dissipate.

“The bigger issue is lightning,” Simpson said. “It’s a cliché, but when thunder roars, go indoors.”

On Saturday, a much larger funnel cloud, possibly a waterspout, was photographed over Buzzards Bay.

Email Alan Pollock at alan