Cold air funnel, not budding tornado, formed over North Newton

By Adam Strunk

A funnel cloud formed over North Newton Wednesday night during a thunderstorm sparking some residential concerns, considering no tornado sirens sounded and no tornado warning was issued issued.

However we can relax. The funnel wasn’t the beginnings of a tornado but instead a cold air funnel, and had little if any chance of reaching the ground.

That’s according to the National Weather Service.

“It was such a large thunderstorm with so much upward motion with turbulent eddies, sometimes you get those little funnels,” NWS meteorologist Andy Kleinsasser said.

Basically the funnels form when air is much warmer on the ground than higher up in the atmosphere. Convection causes their formation, as opposed to total storm rotation, which causes the much larger and more damaging tornadoes. Cold Air funnels often form high in the clouds and are puny or ropey compared to tornadoes, or tornado funnel clouds which form close to the ground and are thicker.

According to the NWS Cold air funnels are usually harmless, but on rare occasions they can touch down and cause EF-0 level (winds up to 85 mph) tornado damage.

Kleinsasser said that the NWS spotted no rotation with the storms, and that because there was no rotation indicating the possibility of a tornado, no sirens were sounded.

“Our philosophy, we have to ask ourselves questions,” he said in regard to using storm sirens, and text alerts.

“If a tiny cold air funnel that will more than likely never touch down or do we want to use that or save that for something more dangerous.”

The cold air spout was caused by a thunderstorm that brought rain and some pretty dramatic lightening.

Here’s the video of the funnel by Rodger Nugent, and a few other storm shots:

Lightening flashes near the Mid Kansas grain elevator Wednesday night. Photo by Wendy Nugent.
Photo by Rodger Nugent
Photo contributed by Randy McFarlane
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