Science Behind “Gustnado”

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SPRINGFIELD, Ore. – Thunderstorms in Western Oregon are a rare sight, but folks in ¬†Springfield saw something even more rare for this area. ¬†“Leaves started blowing, and it looked like it was going in a circle, then the BBQ grill came up off the ground …”said Kathleen Cather, one of the many people in an East Springfield neighborhood that saw damage to her home Monday.

Strong winds and what neighbors describe as a tornado downed trees, tore up a green house and caused damage along about a two mile stretch. There were no sightings of a tornado, but the damage could have been caused by a gustnado.

With thunderstorms, you can see lightning and the rain, but it is what can’t be seen that causes the real damage. Underneath a thunderstorm are strong downdrafts, which is cold air sinking from higher up in the cloud.

When this air reaches the earth’s surface, it has nowhere to go but out. These strong winds are turbulent and can cause damage to anything that stands in its way. In some cases, these rolling winds can even turn vertically, forming a mini tornado, known as a gustnado.

Gustnados are generally short lived, extending thirty to three hundred feet above the ground. Unlike a tornado, they are not connected to the clouds above but in extreme cases can still have winds of sixty to eighty miles an hour.

We’ll never know for sure what caused all this damage in Springfield but the nearby thunderstorms were likely the culprit.


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