Clouds come in many shapes and sizes. We get a lot of pictures through our Report-It feature as well as phone calls about clouds that look like a tornado. Sometimes they are funnel clouds that lead to tornadoes. Most of the time they are harmless.
Clouds are made of moisture droplets that gather and grow into the different shapes you see each day. When enough are gathered together, they will fall back to the earth as rain.
As the cloud is pulling in moisture from its base, it will sometimes develop a lowering that can look stretched or pointed. It can be in the shape of a funnel or tornado. If the wind is right, it can actually move around, making it look pretty scary.
These scary looking clouds are known as “scud clouds.” According to the National Weather Service, scud clouds are small, ragged, low cloud fragments that are unattached to a larger cloud base. These clouds are often seen behind thunderstorm gust fronts. These clouds are generally associated with cool, moist air, such as thunderstorm outflow.
A tornado also produces a condensation funnel when it forms. In order for a tornado to form, you need to have the right meteorological ingredients in place.
The pictures you send in can help us determine if it is a tornado or “scud.”