An intense microburst hit Calera, OK on Sunday August 12 producing widespread damage. The devastation included downed trees, wrecked billboards, twisted gas station canopies and at least one mobile home flipped upside down. The damage was consistent with winds in the 90 mph range.
Many have offered the included photo (below) as “proof” that it was a tornado, but pictures can be misleading:
If you examine the base of the cloud above the "funnel" you'll see no suggestion of any type of lowering which we would expect for a '"real" tornado of this size.
Also, the area that looks like a tornado is translucent and you can see it looks similar to the rain shaft on the right side of the image. In fact, this "tornado" is just a rain shaft. Outflow winds from the right side of the picture are bending the rain in upon itself to give it a funnel appearance. In fact, if you look up above the funnel-shaped area you see where the rain is falling from the middle of the cloud before it is pushed aside by the wind.
Lastly, a "real" tornado of this size would likely be producing a debris cloud at the ground, but we see nothing where this rain shaft meets the ground.
Bryan County Emergency Management Coordinator James Dalton sent me this same image and after looking at it we both agree it's not a tornado. Rick Smith of the Norman, OK National Weather Service toured the Calera damage area on August 14 and determined it to be straight-line wind damage as well.
I was not in the storm so I don’t pretend to be an eyewitness, but I did survey the damage less than an hour after it ended and everything was consistent with winds blowing very strong in one direction. Even if it had been a tornado in Calera, the picture offered with this blog doesn’t show one.
If you were in this storm you went through an extreme wind event; so even though it was not a tornado, you can rest assured it was intense and very dangerous.