EL PASO, TX (KVEO NEWS CENTER 23) — As we are nearing the the time when we start to see thunderstorms, we also run into the chance of seeing gustnadoes.
El Paso,TX rarely sees tornadoes in the area, but we do see plenty of gustnadoes.
So exactly what is a gustnado? Is it a made up word from crazy and quirky Meteorologists?
Not exactly, this weather phenomenon is way too common in the borderland.
The term is short for gust-front tornadoes. And although they aren't considered tornadoes they can do as much damage as the real thing.
Gustnadoes are small, weak and short lived spin-ups typically occurring on the leading edge of thunderstorm down drafts, known as the gust front.
The gustnado spins upward from the ground, extending between 30 to 300 feet above the surface.
However, the rotating column of air in a gustnado is not connected to the base of a cloud, making it different from tornado.
We actually saw one last year around Mother's Day.
For those who experienced the wind of the gustnado, you would swear your area got hit by a tornado, but of course, tornadoes don't really pay us too many visits here in the borderland.
Here's a link to one that very same one captured on camera.
If you look closely, you will notice this gustnado isn't attached to the thunderstorm cloud. And this is what makes a gustnado different from a tornado.
Now what you need to understand, is gustnadoes usually form during a severe thunderstorm.
The reason for this is very simple.
Very strong thunderstorms produce a powerful downward push of air called a downdraft.
The downdraft winds then spread outward upon hitting the ground, causing a strong rush of wind at the surface.
If there is enough instability, rotation may develop and a gustnado might form.
Tornadoes, however, are always connected to a thunderstorm's cloud base, commonly known as wall cloud.
There have been credible reports of gustnadoes developing a connection to the shelf cloud of a thunderstorm and lasting for 15 minutes or so.
The longest one we have experienced in the Borderland have lasted 5 minutes.
And it is very typical for people to frequently mis-reported gustnadoes as tornadoes, sometimes even in official storm reports.
And this is exactly what the National Weather Service is predicting for the month of May.
Although we haven't experienced one drop of rain, it's still early in the month, and El Nino could surprise us early this year!