Rare Cold Air Funnel Spotted Off Nantucket's South Shore

Jason Graziadei •

Cold air funnel
Photo by Matt Palka

Island resident Matt Palka was driving down Surfside Road when something in the sky caught his eye. He pulled over and started taking pictures of what at first appeared to be a tornado preparing to touch down.

"Not every day you see that driving down the street here," Palka said. The cloud formation was spotted by a number of island residents along the south shore, including the Federal Aviation Administration personnel in the tower at Nantucket Memorial Airport.

The extremely rare meteorological phenomenon was actually a "cold air funnel," according to WBZ chief meteorologist Eric Fisher.

According to the National Weather Service, “Cold air funnels form beneath showers or weak thunderstorms when the air aloft is especially cold. The funnels are most common in the fall and spring when the sun is able to heat up the lower levels of the atmosphere, causing convection to bubble up and form showers, but temperatures around 15,000 to 20,000 feet above the ground are quite cold. Cold air funnels are usually harmless, but on rare occasions, they can touch down and cause EF-0 level (winds up to 85 mph) tornado damage.”

More photos below by Palka and watch a short video taken by Thomas Moore by clicking here. 

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