The National Weather Service on Monday confirmed a gustnado near Fairfield in Hyde County during storms on May 31.
A severe thunderstorm moving to the east produced the gustnado along or just north of Lake Mattamuskeet near and just to the east of Fairfield that afternoon, the weather service reported.
A gustnado may look like a tornado to those who see one, but they are actually small whirlwinds which form as an eddy in thunderstorm outflow.
The Hyde County gustnado may have formed over the lake before crossing over North Lake Road just east of Fairfield, the weather service said.
The gustnado tore limbs from smaller trees, mainly along North Lake Road. The damage was consistent with winds in the 60 mph range, NWS said.
About 4 miles east of Fairfield, again mainly along North Lake Road, maximum winds of around 80 mph occurred.
“Here less than 10 percent of shingles on a house were blown off, with larger sections of trees either snapped or broken,” the weather service said.
Hyde County Emergency Management was able to provide photos of the damage, confirming the damage was oriented from the north to south, or in the same direction, which would not be consistent with that of a tornado.
“We are very thankful that we also received a great piece of video from a location along north lake road east of the damage, that showed the rotation,” the weather service said. “A team from the office compared the video to radar imagery of the storm. The strongest signature on the radar was that of a downdraft, with very strong inbound winds toward the radar site here in Newport or from the north.”
The region had been very dry prior to the storm, with duststorms reported in the area that same after. The amount of dust likely aided in being able to see the circulation so clearly.
The weather service describes a gustnado as”a rotating column of air in contact with the ground but not extending from a thunderstorm cloud,” often forming on the leading edge of severe thunderstorms.
“It is important to note that although not classified as a tornado, gustnadoes can produce damage consistent with that of an ef0 or low end ef1 tornado or roughly in the 70 to 90 mph range,” the weather service said.