On Sunday, May 24th, parts of eastern Nebraska and western Iowa experienced some active weather, including strong to severe thunderstorms. Even though we didn’t have any tornado warnings near Omaha, there was a brief tornado warning in south-central Nebraska near the town of Edgar.
While many of us in the Midwest are pretty knowledgeable about tornadoes and how they form, this tornado warning was a little bit different than usual. That’s because it was for a landspout tornado. The “regular” tornadoes we see most often are supercell tornadoes. These tornadoes are, of course, the result of a rotating updraft in a strong storm. A landspout tornado is a non-supercell type of tornado and occurs while the thunderstorm is still growing and there is rotation at the ground level, but no rotating updraft within the storm itself. With landspouts, we typically see a narrow rope-like funnel. In this case on Sunday, the storm had just begun to grow and was interacting with a nearly stationary cold front nearby.
Landspout tornadoes are usually short-lived, fairly weak, and do little to no damage. This particular one derailed 5-10 coal train cars. Thankfully, no people were injured. Check out some pictures of the tornado below, taken by Twitter user @NEgrainguy.