WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL)— Storm Chaser Mike Prendergast is one of those people who run toward the storms.
“Dude, this is actually pretty impressive.”
“Things like that, out in the middle of nowhere, just watching that, feeling it, smelling it, hearing it, it’s just amazing,” Prendergast said.
And on May 13 of last year, he ran toward this one near Duke and Altus, Oklahoma.
This is a shelf cloud.
— Photo by: Mike Prendergast
“I know as scary as it looks it really wasn’t a tornado threat at all,” Prendergast said.
Those shelf clouds are primarily a wind event. So they were 60, 70, 80 mile per hour winds behind there.
Rain drags cold air down from aloft that spreads out when it hits the ground.
It’s moving into the areas that are a lot warmer and moister.
The warm air, lighter than the cold, rises and the water vapor cools and condenses into visible cloud drops.
And so as that warm layer rises it’s causing this amazing looking cloud, the shelf cloud, that is right on the leading edge of where the strongest winds are.
But are they dangerous?
“That shelf cloud is so well defined, when I see a storm like that is very crisp, very clearly defined, that’s a very good indication that there are some very strong winds in there and you don’t want to be out in that for sure,” Prendergast said.
And that means be prepared to take cover.
“Go go go,” Prendergast said “Get in the car right now.”
Prendergast also said sometimes you can hear a strong storm coming.
If there is a lot of hail, listen for a hail roar, that he said sounds like a waterfall.