ENOCH – Southern Utah residents made a rare sighting over the weekend, as they watched a funnel cloud form under dark clouds Sunday evening.
Enoch resident Gayla Webb Chisholm saw the funnel cloud from her home just before 6 p.m., as did several other residents of the area.
“What was even more amazing was watching it shrink back into the clouds,” Chisholm said.
While funnel clouds are not unheard of in Utah, they are fairly rare, said Eric Shoening, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.
The wet weather pattern in recent weeks has created good conditions for the unusual phenomenon.
“We have been seeing a fair amount of funnel clouds across Utah in the last week or so with the moist airmass we’ve had in place,” Schoening said. “We’ve seen them pop up a lot more than we normally do around Utah.”
Six to 12 funnel clouds have been reported to the National Weather Service from locations all across the state over the past week.
“Funnel clouds can occur anywhere if you get the right environment,” Schoening said. The wet weather pattern the whole state has experienced over the past month means conditions have been right for funnel clouds to develop.
Funnel clouds are usually not dangerous, and rarely touch the ground, although that can happen, Schoening said.
A funnel cloud becomes a tornado if it touches the ground, and while funnel clouds are uncommon, tornadoes are very rare in Utah, Schoening said. An average of two tornado sightings occur each year, mostly in the warmer months between May and September.
In 1998, there were eight confirmed tornados in Utah. There are probably more tornados in Utah than are reported, Schoening said, because so much of the state is uninhabited.
The important thing for the public is to be aware of thunderstorm activity, Schoening said, not because of tornados, but because of other risks.
“We have a fair amount of lightning deaths across the state,” he said. When thunderstorms are near, take shelter indoors or inside of a car.
“And with any thunderstorm, just be aware of their power with regards to lightning, and wind and hail, and even the occasional tornado,” he said.
“Just be cautious and aware and respect them.”
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