A `gustnado’ churns across a Michigan lake. Experts say these small whirlwinds rarely cause damage

May 28, 2024, 11:01 AM

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — An unusual weather phenomenon called a “gustnado,” which looks like a small tornado but is actually a type of whirlwind kicked up by thunderstorm winds, brought some dramatic moments to a western Michigan lake over the weekend.

Video posted on social media shows the gustnado churning across Gun Lake south of Grand Rapids on Sunday, the clouds rolling rapidly as objects fly and people scream.

The National Weather Service included screen shots from that video on its Grand Rapids Facebook page explaining the ominous, swirling winds and clouds.

Meteorologist Nathan Jeruzal said that unlike tornadoes, which begin aloft in the atmosphere’s mid-levels then descend to the ground, gustnadoes form as small but turbulent pockets of wind produced by a thunderstorm’s downdrafts and outflow, creating a swirl at or near the ground.

NOAA describes a gustnado as “a small whirlwind which forms as an eddy in thunderstorm outflows.” Jeruzal said they typically don’t cause any damage.

“They’re kind of like cousins to whirlwinds. They form in a very short time frame and they last only briefly,” he said.

The weather service said several gustnadoes formed Sunday in western Michigan during a thunderstorm “along portions of the leading edge of the storm’s gust front.”

Jeruzal said the only gustnado images the agency had seen are the ones from Gun Lake, located about 19 miles (30 kilometers) south of Grand Rapids. He said the weather service was not aware of that one causing any damage.

Gustnadoes, like the one seen on Gun Lake, typically have winds of from 30 mph to 50 mph (50 kph to 80 kph), placing them below an EF-0 tornado — the weakest of twisters — which begin with winds of 65 mph (105 kph), Jeruzal said.

“They’re just smaller and weaker and not as dangerous as a tornado,” he said.

National News

Associated Press

Southern New Mexico wildfire leads to evacuation of village of 7,000

RUIDOSO, N.M. (AP) — Residents of a village in southern New Mexico were ordered to flee their homes Monday without taking time to grab any belongings due to a fast-moving wildfire. “GO NOW: Do not attempt to gather belongings or protect your home. Evacuate immediately,” officials with Ruidoso, a village home to 7,000 people, said […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Convicted killer of California college student Kristin Smart ordered to pay $350k in restitution

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (AP) — A California judge ruled Monday that a man convicted of killing 19-year-old college student Kristin Smart in 1996 must pay just over $350,000 to her family for costs they incurred after her death. Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe ordered Paul Flores to make the payments after a […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

Central African Republic faces increased rebel activity and spillover from Sudan war, UN experts say

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Activities of armed groups in the volatile Central African Republic have increased, complicating a security landscape that has seen a spillover of the conflict in neighboring Sudan, U.N. experts warn in a new report. The panel of experts cite confirmed reports of air raids by the Sudanese military around border areas […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

A judge temporarily blocks Iowa law that allows authorities to charge people facing deportation

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked an Iowa law that allowed law enforcement in the state to file criminal charges against people with outstanding deportation orders or who previously had been denied entry to the U.S. U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Locher issued a preliminary injunction because he said […]

10 hours ago

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

11 hours ago

Associated Press

Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear a challenge to governor’s 400-year school funding veto

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear a challenge to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ partial veto that locked in a school funding increase for the next 400 years, the justices announced Monday. The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Litigation Center filed a lawsuit in April arguing the governor exceeded his authority. The group […]

11 hours ago

A `gustnado’ churns across a Michigan lake. Experts say these small whirlwinds rarely cause damage