Gustnado fools people into thinking they saw tornado

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by April Warnecke

Bio | Email | Follow: @AprilWarnecke

azfamily.com

Posted on May 10, 2012 at 7:14 AM

Updated Thursday, May 10 at 7:41 AM

SAN TAN VALLEY, Ariz. -- Wednesday's storms brought a wall of dust, small hail, strong winds and even some Valley rain. But it also brought a rare weather feature that fooled some folks into thinking they'd spotted a tornado. 

A gustnado is a rotating cloud that can form during a thunderstorm, but it's much different than a tornado.

Unlike a tornado that spins down from a cloud, a gustnado spins up from the ground. It's caused by the outflow, or strong downdraft from a thunderstorm that spins up a rotating column of air. 

Most gustnadoes don't have winds as strong as a tornado, and most only last a few seconds to a few minutes. 

Gustnadoes form at the leading edge of gust fronts, fronts that sometimes also cause dust storms.

That was the case yesterday, when storm-chaser and photographer Mike Olbinski caught some gustnadoes on camera while shooting a dust storm in the southeast Valley. 

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