Frank Schultz: Clouds are funny things

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Frank Schultz
Wednesday, April 23, 2014

In honor of Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week, I am submitting my new favorite acronym: SLC.

It stands for scary-looking cloud, as in, “That's not a tornado. It's just an SLC.”

I recently took a tornado-spotting class, courtesy of the MidWest Severe Storm Tracking and Response Center/midwestsstrc.org and Rock County Sheriff's Office. It is to these public servants that I owe my gratitude for this factoid.

The descriptions of the various SLCs are complicated and varied, so suffice it to say that they sometimes are mistaken for tornadoes. Here's a gallery of SLC photos.

On the other hand, some tornadoes are invisible because they are shrouded by rain or darkness.

Then there are funnel clouds. Funnel clouds spin like tornadoes and form like tornadoes, but they don't touch the ground. I knew that, but what I learned is that sometimes, a tornado can look like a funnel cloud. The dark, cone-shaped part can be up in the air, but the tornado actually continues all the way to the ground, even though you can't easily see it. You might have to get close to tell whether fierce winds are blowing at ground level, and experts advise you don't try to get close. Veteran storm chasers have died trying.

Still, I would like to see a tornado someday. I have no wish for anyone to get hurt, but the boy in me wants to see one.

Stay safe.

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