Wall Cloud Tuesday (Isabella and Midland Counties)

After a very active day on Sunday, southern lower Michigan got a break Tuesday. Tuesday afternoon, a strong cold front went through the region triggering severe thunderstorms along a line mainly north of Lansing, MI.

While the outcome lacked a well-defined, high wind spitting squall line as forecasted, it caused a few cells to feed on their own. This resulted in isolated severe thunderstorms.

I was excited to see a cell mustering enough energy to travel towards Mount Pleasant, and I watched as it weakened and strengthened now and then. I will never again doubt what seems to be a weakening cell again.

At 6:14, this frame shows the cell I am describing approaching Mount Pleasant from the SW.

Cell SW of Mount Pleasant at 6:14pm.

It was just restrengthening, but I was not sure how far it would go this time. A new Severe Thunderstorm Warning was issued for it, and I could see possible hail signatures.  Grabbed the camera and went to the top floor of my dorm to have a peek.

Nothing spectacular came out of this session. There was a well pronounced rain shaft due W. Then the rain and wind hit the building. I was not expecting it to pick up this rapidly, and the windows began to vibrate to the touch. Kicked myself for not having my Kestral (or any shoes) on me to take wind measurements. Standing at the window I got a text message about 6:30 alerting of a Tornado Warning issued for Mount Pleasant (and Isabella county). I brushed it off at first, but then ran back to the room. It was indeed there, and I took another glance out the window. Low clouds and a kind of ripple near a lowered base? Sounds like a wall cloud to me!

6:24pm image shows rapid intensifying just 10 minutes later!

At this moment, shivers took over and I cruised out of the room once again. I’ve never seen a wall cloud first hand. Didn’t really know what to expect. Going to the east side of the building this time, I could see the wall cloud well. It took a little while more for it to develop, but when it did, it had a classic structure.

Wall cloud looking SE over campus buildings.

After I found the source of the Tornado Warning I calmed down. Of course there could have been two cells, but I had a camera and a thirst for weather knowledge!

Zoom-in of wall cloud feature. Looking SE.

Soon after another developing cell started dumping rain and cut off my visibility. Went back to my computer and tracked it further into Midland County which I let some friends know of the situation. Was relieved to know they had plains to hit the basement within the conversation.

Rotation signature became well pronounced, and eventually a funnel cloud was reported. No word yet on a touchdown, however it is possible Shepard, MI had a brief touchdown.

So it was exciting for me, and chasing storms only required me to run from one end of the dorm to another. I was severely concerned with the precautions taken after the Tornado Warning was issued. From the time I got the warning text at 6:31, it took over 20 minutes for sirens to sound on campus, which sounded like, “Optimus Prime warning us of Megatron coming to attack,” according to my roommate. They finally went off while I was calling a friend in Midland County at 6:52. By then the wall cloud was long gone, and I was in the process of uploading a spotter report and photos to the NWS Grand Rapids Facebook page. How disgusting! If this had been an actual tornado, people would have little to no idea what was coming!

I’m unsure if they were waiting on visual confirmation, but when a warning is issued, precautions should be taken regardless.

Big thanks for those who texted me and asked if I was in Mount Pleasant or let me know where the main rotation was. It was incredibly helpful and rest assuring that what I was looking at, was what it was; a wall cloud. I could do what I love, photography and watch the weather!

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About gweatherc
Live in Michigan and enjoy observing the weather. Want to pursue it as a career! Currently taking classes at Central Michigan University.

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