Some residents of South Louisiana were introduced to a new weather term this week: microburst. The term gained attention after a viral photo, initially thought to depict a tornado, was clarified by local meteorologists.

Kasie LuQuette, who captured the viral image, described her experience on Facebook: "I’ve never been a part of a tornado and I am no weather expert, but here’s a video of what appears to be a tornado shaped outline after having intense high-speed winds, pea-sized hail, and sounds like I’ve never heard before. Appears to have been heading towards Delcambre area from south Youngsville/Coteau area. I’ve never experienced fear like that before. We’re safe. Our home is safe. Everyone stay safe."

However, KLFY Meteorologist Trevor Sonnier suggested a different explanation. "This picture from the storm overnight is making the rounds on social media. It may look like a tornado, but a microburst (downburst) can have a very similar cloud signature, so this is not a definitive tornado. If this was a tornado it would be a monster, definitely one of the bigger tornadoes I’ve seen around here. Radar velocities would have for sure picked up a tornado this strong, and rather definitively," he explained in a Facebook update. He added that the storm likely produced 60-100 mph winds in a concentrated area, characteristic of a microburst.

LuQuette acknowledged the meteorologist’s input in a follow-up post: "Cool cats & kittens. After conversing with someone educated in meteorology, it appears it might’ve been a microburst. After my own Google search, it could’ve very well been. But as originally stated, I’m no weather expert and it was just a ‘tornado shaped outline.’ It was a really neat video and still shot and I wanted to share it with the world because it’s just fascinating."

To clarify, a microburst is a localized column of sinking air within a thunderstorm that leads to powerful wind gusts at ground level. These events can cause extensive damage similar to that of tornadoes, but their wind patterns are straight-line rather than rotational. Microbursts typically last for a few minutes and can occur in both wet and dry conditions.

KATC Chief Meteorologist Rob Perillo used another term, “Supercell downbursts,” while sharing footage from the same storm system. Supercells are severe thunderstorms capable of producing intense wind, hail, and tornadoes. Downbursts from these storms are belts of strong winds descending from the storm, often causing damage akin to that seen in tornadoes.

Sonnier reiterated the importance of accurate weather reporting and public awareness: "This is the radar screenshot of the strong cell that impacted Lafayette and Vermilion parish overnight, producing damage. We’ve seen a ton of downbursts with these storms, which is a belt of strong winds (60-70+ mph) that works its way to ground level in extremely high rainfall rates. Not to say it wasn’t a tornado, the NWS may have the final say on that, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this was caused by microburst winds."

The recent weather has been among the most active in recent memory, leaving residents and meteorologists alike hoping for some relief. As Sonnier noted, "I think I speak for everyone when I say it’s time for a break, and it looks like we will get it after tomorrow!"

Understanding phenomena like microbursts is crucial for public safety and awareness, especially as we've seen severe weather events become more common here in south Louisiana.

As always: Stay informed, stay safe, and always listen to our local weather professionals.

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