SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Afternoon thunderstorms turned severe on Friday, causing wind damage at Pass Christian Harbor. A sudden burst of heavy rain and powerful winds took some by surprise as it ripped pieces of tin from the roof of Shaggy's.
According to National Weather Service storm reports, the damage was likely caused by a weather phenomenon known as a downburst.
Downbursts are caused when rain falls out of a thunderstorm cloud and encounters a layer of dry air. The rain evaporates, which cools the air. Since cool air is denser than the warm air around it, it rushes quickly to the surface.
Sometimes, the air can rush down so violently, it can exceed speeds over 100 mph. Because it can happen so fast, they do not show up on radar data until after it happens. This makes it difficult for the National Weather Service to issue warnings.
"When you look at any radar display, it is always about five minutes old. That is how long it takes for the radar to send out a signal, detect rain, then send that signal back to be processed. So,once the downburst signal shows up, it has already happened." Explained WLOX First Alert Meteorologist, Eric Jeansonne.
Initial reports indicated it may have been a waterspout that touched down and passed over the harbor. However, an assessment of the damage indicates winds blew debris from the west to the east in one direction. If it was a tornado or waterspout, debris would have been flung in several different directions due to the rotating winds.
Typically, winds from a downburst travel in one direction. Sometimes this is referred to as straight-line winds. Sometimes, people witness rain swirling around in downbursts. This is caused by the air hitting the ground and being forced back up, resulting swirling motions.
You can get the latest forecast for your location at our Weather page or in our WLOX Weather App.
If you see any bad weather, feel free to email your storm photos to email@example.com or to submit your photos inside of the WLOX Weather App.