March 12, 1996

The northern San Joaquin Valley was under its second tornado watch in as many weeks on Tuesday afternoon. Unlike last week, the conditions came together to produce numerous reports of severe weather in the Valley on Tuesday, including the Turlock area.

At 1659, I was informed that there may have been a funnel cloud developing nearby. When I went outside to take a look at 1700, I was greeted to the sight of a well-defined, well-developed cold air funnel just three miles to my ESE. I ran inside to get my video camera, then went right back out to capture footage of the event. When I took a brief break in search for a better vantagepoint, I noticed that ANOTHER funnel cloud forming just to the north of the main funnel. The secondary funnel was much thinner than the main funnel and only lasted for a few seconds. Within minutes, the main funnel became uncoiled and vanished. I immediately notified the NWS in Sacramento, who promptly issued a special weather statement for the funnel clouds east of Turlock. I also contacted a local television station about the footage I caught of the funnels, and I have yet to hear a response from the station.

The cold air funnels formed on the north end of a line of heavy showers, which had been heading west. Shortly after the funnels dissipated, their northernmost parent cell stalled east of Turlock near the town of Denair, while the rest of the line moved west and weakened. By 1800, I noticed that the storm to east of Turlock may have been showing signs of rotation. When I went outside to check the progress of the storm at 1820, I observed a spectacular wall cloud three miles to my ENE. The wall cloud's inflow was apparent, as was its rotation. The wall cloud itself had a distinct, corkscrew pattern. My initial reaction was to chase the storm, but the wall cloud was rapidly falling apart. By the time I was able to get video of this storm, the wall cloud had considerably weakened and no longer appeared capable of producing severe weather.

Cold air funnels are not unusual in the Central Valley, but the last time I observed one from Turlock was Mar 24, 1989. I have seen wall clouds here on a slightly more frequent basis, but none like the one I saw at sunset Tuesday.