RENO, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) -- It has been a very active weather week so far, including something our region has not seen in years, a tornado warning issued Monday night. The National Weather Service in Reno said a funnel cloud prompted them to issue the warning in Washoe and Storey counties for about 40 minutes.
But experts say what you may have thought looked like an actual tornado, was not one. "It probably caught a lot of people off guard, we don't get tornado warnings in Nevada all that often,” said Meteorologist Chris Smallcomb.
It was our area's first tornado warning in exactly six years. A time lapse video shot in Spanish Springs by a viewer is what experts say is a rotating wall cloud, the initial phase of a tornado. "And that's kind of a little lowering of the cloud, it starts to rotate a little bit, and then as it sort of tightens up and starts spinning a little bit more, you'll develop a funnel, which is kind of the thing everybody is used to seeing, a funnel cloud," said Smallcomb.
"And then once that touches the ground, that’s when it becomes a tornado."
But Smallcomb said the funnel cloud never touched the ground, so it was not an official tornado. "Typically the air around here is so dry that it’s really tough for that funnel to make it all the way to the ground, where yesterday it was actually not so dry, it was actually pretty humid, you probably can tell it’s kind of humid lately. So actually it's more favorable for that funnel to touch the ground."
Still, it can happen out here. Smallcomb said the most recent tornado touchdown in Washoe County was in 2004. "It’s extremely rare, and when they do touch down, they tend to be a weaker style tornado, they're not the big monster tornadoes that you would see in Kansas and Oklahoma."
Although Smallcomb said it is rare for our area to get tornadoes, if one does happen, he recommends putting as many walls between you and the outdoors as possible. He also said our region is more likely to get damage from flooding or dust devils, instead of a tornado.