Talk about misleading!!! This was spotted in Vestavia, Alabama, this past weekend. While it certainly looks like a tornado, it’s not.

The photo was posted on the facebook page of Meteorologist James Spann of ABC 33/40, and the photo was taken by Beth Lauderdale.

According to Spann, the storm was well below severe limits. It’s simply a tornado look-a-like. It’s a scud cloud.

(This photo was taken in Michigan. Look at how the scud clouds hang below, wispy and loose. Photo: WOOD TV)

SCUD stands for Stratocumulus Under Downdraft. That’s exactly where you will find them, under the downdraft of a shower or storm.

Scud clouds can look scary, but they aren’t. They are simply low-lying clouds that are usually below storm clouds. They are usually very wispy and loose. They can look like tornadoes, but they don’t rotate.

You will usually find scud clouds on the leading edge of a thunderstorm. Because thunderstorms lift warm, moist air into colder areas where the air saturates, sometimes the air is so moist that this happens just above the surface. This is how a scud cloud forms. Often times they appear to look like fingers reaching out from below the storm, or can even look to be a tornado.


Often times scud can look so ominous, people mistake it for a tornado or a funnel cloud. Here are some key differences between tornadoes and scud:

  • Tornado funnels will never detach from the cloud base, SCUD will.
  • Tornado funnels are rapidly rotating columns of air, they will never stop rotating. SCUD will sometimes stop twisting, or just float.
  • Tornadoes will move with the cloud. SCUD will often move faster or in a different direction than the main cloud.
  • Tornado funnels will often be very defined. SCUD twists often look fibrous or wispy.
  • Tornadoes spin down from a lowering in the cloud base. SCUD can appear under any part of the downdraft.
  • Tornadoes only form from strong storms. SCUD can form on any shower or storm.