GAYLORD, Mich. (WLNS) – Last Friday, a tornado tore through Gaylord in northern Michigan.
The twister formed a “supercell.”
In today’s Weather Wednesday, we explain what a supercell actually is.
The tornado that touched down in Otsego County this past Friday was rare since normally tornadoes aren’t seen this far north in our state.
In fact, since 1950 there have only been 4 tornadoes reported in this area, and normally they aren’t as intense.
After the National Weather Service conducted their damage surveys of last Friday’s storm, they gave the twister a rating of an EF3, with the storm’s peak wind up to 150 miles per hour.
The last time a tornado of this intensity was seen in Otsego County was on July 3, 1974. And the last one that occurred in the state of Michigan was in 2012.
Now, this tornado formed from what is known as a supercell, which essentially is a rotating thunderstorm. But how do we get the necessary rotation in the first place?
A supercell thunderstorm forms in a very similar way to a regular one, where there’s an intense updraft that is transporting warm and moist air into our storm cloud. There is also a downdraft that brings cooler air and normally heavy rainfall down to the surface.
With a supercell, these are often separate from one another which is why the storms can last for a prolonged period, around two-six hours.
Often in an environment where supercells form, we have what is called wind shear. This is when we have a change in wind direction as we move into the atmosphere.
As that updraft goes up into the storm cloud, it can rotate. This is how that rotation forms, it starts off in the cloud, and a tornado forms when that rotation extends from the cloud down to the surface.
This is the most common way for tornadoes to form, but often these are the most destructive kinds of tornadoes, and of course, the one in Gaylord was no exception.
It is important to remember however that not all supercells create tornadoes. In fact, only 20-30% of them do, and even if they do not form tornadoes, these supercells can pack quite a heavy punch.
They have a high tendency to produce severe weather, which includes damaging winds, and some very large hailstones.