Mentally, I'm still on vacation…

… and part of it is due to my obsession with this strange cloud formation we encountered in central Missouri. In all my travels I have never seen this type of cloud. While it looks menacing and otherworldly, it isn’t always dangerous. It depends.

We came upon this mass at the end of a hot and sunny day exploring a portion of the Missouri Ozarks, a densly forested area of low mountains. As we worked our way northeast toward St. Louis the topography opened up to the plains and presented a stunning view of  this massive dome. As we drew closer and then slipped underneath it, we were both thrilled and agitated.

We are veteran road trippers through the nation’s broad and flat central states. We’ve witnessed a number of strong storms and violent weather. I recall my father outrunning a tornado in Kansas back in the mid-1970s. Although we only saw the rotating skies overhead and never witnessed the funnel or touchdown, we followed the course of the storm by way of a crackling AM radio broadcast. My only other memory of that afternoon was a stop at an ice cream stand where we had cones and my dad took a long pull on a bottle of bourbon.

Memories of that day as well as how clouds look in the Michigan skies when tornado sirens roar to life had my heart jumping and my fingers dancing on the car radio scan buttons. I switched to the Weather Band, fully expecting to hear the staccato squawks of the Emergency Broadcast System. Nothing. We were puzzled. How could something so daunting be so uneventful? We checked Weather Bug, a cell phone app, and saw a large storm cell on radar moving northeast of us but we never encountered anything more than moderate rainfall.  Later,  I did a little Internet sleuthing and learned it was a shelf cloud, which is attached to the leading edge of a large thunderstorm. Based on all the YouTube uploads, I’m not the only person to be fascinated and fooled by this weather phenomenon.

This is the first sighting of the cloud, which looks like a space craft.

Almost under the cloud. Camera in one hand, the other scanning radio stations for a weather report. No warnings. No big deal.

Another view as we moved under the cloud

Under the cloud. The wisps descending earthward resemble funnel clouds, but they are not a threat.

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