While at the Village Park in Perry, Mike Grover, chief of Perry Police, snapped the above photo, which looked like a tornado forming in the distance. However, National Weather Service of Buffalo (NWS) officials say the formation was a funnel cloud.
Most of Sunday, the NWS had issued warnings for Northeastern Wyoming and surrounding counties that a line of strong thunderstorms was moving across the area. Around 4:30 that afternoon is when Grover snapped the shot.
Wyoming County and all of Western New York has had its fair share of wacky weather this summer and officials say this is due to the pretty active pattern with the jet stream.
WNY is in an area where the trough (pattern of the jet stream) moves in a southerly direction – negative tilted trough – said Meteorologist Steve Welch. According to the NWS website, this type of trough produces the most severe weather. The strong southerly surface wind, with its warm air underneath the incoming cold air in the upper atmosphere, creates unstable conditions.
But what exactly is the difference between a tornado and a funnel cloud?
Essentially, a tornado is a funnel cloud that actually touches the ground, usually within super cell storms. While they are rare, New York State, as a whole, averages about 10 per year on a 30-year average.
“The last one here through Western New York was in 2011,” Welch said. “There is generally more activity from the Northern Finger Lakes and Southern Tier area to Albany.”
While there will always be a funnel cloud when there is a tornado, the reverse is not true.
Anytime there is a rotating funnel of condensation descending from a wall cloud toward the ground, a funnel cloud forms. That formation is a rotating column of condensation until it hits the ground, where it becomes a tornado.