“Terrifying and beautiful at the same time,” reports one witness.

If the ancient wind gods whipped up an old-fashioned reel mower and drove it over humanity, it might look like the foggy, spinning apparition that recently dominated the Michigan skyline.

Multiple people on the eastern coast of Lake Michigan, and particularly at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, witnessed the huge roll cloud this weekend as it silently gusted over the region. “Terrifying and beautiful at the same time,” reports one woman. “I would probably have been running and snapping pictures as it looks like a giant tornado.”

Well, kind of: Push a giant tornado onto its side and give it a kick and you’d get a roll cloud, though without all the roof-ripping violence of a twister. This billowing spinner is, according to NOAA, a “low, horizontal tube-shaped arcus cloud associated with a thunderstorm gust front (or sometimes with a cold front).” They rotate on a horizontal axis, remain “relatively rare,” and are “completely detached from the thunderstorm base or other cloud features, thus differentiating them from the more familiar shelf clouds.”

Here are a few more shots of the beast:

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a photo of yellow vest protesters in Paris, France.
    Equity

    To Understand American Political Anger, Look to ‘Peripheral France’

    French geographer Christophe Guilluy has a controversial diagnosis of working-class resentment in the age of Trump, Brexit, and the Yellow Vests.

  2. Design

    How 'Maintainers,' Not 'Innovators,' Make the World Turn

    We need more stories about the labor that sustains society, a group of scholars say.

  3. Transportation

    Why New York City Stopped Building Subways

    Nearly 80 years ago, a construction standstill derailed the subway’s progress, leading to its present crisis. This is the story, decade by decade.

  4. A man walks by an abandoned home in Youngstown, Ohio
    Life

    How Some Shrinking Cities Are Still Prospering

    A study finds that some shrinking cities are prosperous areas with smaller, more-educated populations. But they also have greater levels of income inequality.

  5. A rendering of a co-living building in San Jose.
    Life

    The Largest Co-Living Building in the World Is Coming to San Jose

    The startup Starcity plans to build an 800-unit, 18-story “dorm for adults” to help affordably house Silicon Valley’s booming workforce.

×