TAMPA (WFLA) — News Channel 8 viewers and social media followers are sharing their photos and videos as severe storms move through the Tampa Bay area.
The shelf cloud pictured above is common in thunderstorms. It does not signify a tornado but there are typically strong winds inside the thunderstorm when this feature appears. This particular feature forms from the cold and warm air flowing out of and into a thunderstorm.
As the rain is falling inside a storm in what is called the downdraft, it pulls air (and rain) down toward the ground and cools it on the way. Once the air reaches the ground it has to spread out because it can’t be absorbed into the ground like rain.
When the cool air hits the ground, it spreads out ahead of the storm. On the side, the inflow is the warm, humid air flowing into the thunderstorm. It hits the cold dense air flowing out and rises above it and into the storm. The rising warm air condenses and forms clouds. The interaction between the turbulent rising air and more stable air out ahead of the storm in the upper levels causes the striations. Below the striations, the turbulent air is mixing and causes ragged clouds to form.
If a shelf cloud is moving toward you, you’ll feel the warm humid air flowing toward the thunderstorm. As it moves closer, a cold gust of air will come at you from the thunderstorm known as the gust front. Once that passes, the air will be cool and dense and flow toward the front of the storm until the heavy rain and gusty winds start.
Here is the rest of the gallery:
Lightning strike on Clearwater Beach; Courtesy Clearwater PD
Clouds moving through Fish Hawk; Courtesy: Tammy Hay
Clouds moving through south of Gandy off Manhattan; Courtesy: Colby Smith