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Shelf clouds roll through the area on Wednesday evening

Shelf clouds become more common, as severe weather season ramps up.  They can be scary-looking and can often confuse people that a tornado is about to form.  

Tornadoes don't form out of shelf clouds, but that doesn't mean they should be taken lightly.  In a way, they're nature's warning sign that gusty winds and downpours are about to move in.  

The first step to shelf cloud formation is rain-cooled air sinking and flowing out from the storm (otherwise known as outflow).  

The second step is the warmer air ahead, rising and condensing into a cloud above the outflow.  This is what gives that shelf-ish appearance.  

We could actually see this happening on radar yesterday evening.  The heavier rain is indicated in the red, but juuuust ahead of that you can see a thin line of green.  That's the shelf cloud projecting out from the storm.

So no, there was nothing tornadic about these storms yesterday.  Having said that, though, whenever you see one of these clouds - get ready for some gusty winds and heavy rain.  

Be sure to check out the full gallery from Wednesday evening's storms here.


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