Rare funnel cloud touches down on Lake Tahoe (video)
Tahoe got a taste of some unusual weather Wednesday when a funnel cloud briefly touched down on the lake.
A tornado warning went out around 4 p.m. Wednesday after an off-duty National Weather Service employee spotted the cloud over the lake. The employee notified the NWS office in Reno.
Several minutes later, the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection shared several photos and a video that clearly showed spray rings, indicating that the funnel cloud, known as a waterspout (essentially a tornado over water), did touch down on the lake, Tony Fuentes, a meteorologists with NWS in Reno, told the Tribune Thursday.
“They’re fairly uncommon but we do have them,” Fuentes said, adding that most tornado warnings issued by NWS Reno occur in Western Nevada at lower elevations. Since 2000, the Reno office has issued 11 tornado warnings for the region. That number includes Wednesday’s warning, which expired just before 5 p.m.
As for the last time a waterspout occurred in Tahoe, Fuentes said he recalled seeing a photo of one in the past several years. He was unsure of the exact date.
While the occurrence of a waterspout is unusual, September can provide ideal conditions.
As Fuentes explained, the relatively warmer surface temperature of the lake in September combined with cooler air moving in with thunderstorms can make conditions unstable.
The Reno office did not receive any reports of the funnel making landfall or causing any damage.
The National Weather Service says a waterspout has been observed over Lake Tahoe amid severe weather that led to a tornado warning for several northeastern California counties and Carson City in western Nevada.
The Reno weather office says the waterspout made contact with the lake at 4:27 p.m. Wednesday and numerous spotter photos show its well-defined spray ring on the surface.
Meteorologists issued the tornado warning during another brief round of thunderstorms over the northern Sierra Nevada.
A fall-like cold front is expected Thursday, bringing gusty winds and a chance of showers, followed by a stronger front early next week.
This update was reported by the Associated Press.
The National Weather Service in Reno is saying that a funnel cloud was confirmed over Lake Tahoe around 4:05 p.m. Wednesday.
The warning, which advised people to shelter in place, expired at 4:45 p.m.
A severe thunderstorm warning remains in place for the Carson and Washoe valleys through 5:15 p.m., according to NWS.