What type of weird clouds did I see?

Last evening in Austin, a big brief thundstorm rolled through with wind, lightning, and heavy rain. My rowing team was scheduled to go out and when we got down to the club, the storm seemed to have moved off to the east so we decided to go out on the water. (yeah, I know that was probably stupid)

While we were rowing, these really weird clouds formed overhead that looked like fat fingers stretching across the sky from west to east with clear sky between them. And then we started seeing lightning, realized we were two and a half miles form the dock so we turned around and rowed home at pressure. :smack:

Anyway, anyone know what type of clouds those were? I looked at some cloud pages but didn’t see any pictures like them. I’m alos interested in what kinda of conditions cause those types of clouds and if they indicate dangerous weather. Thanks.

Was the effect something like this picture, but less solid, more broken up? I think the term is “banded stratus” and it’s associated with relatively fast-moving fronts. But I couldn’t find any examples or discussion in a fairly quick Google search.

THey were a lot more distinct. It was like a fat stripe of dark solid could and then an equal width of open sky and then another cloud. And looking to the north, all I could see was the stripey edges of the clouds, stacked up. as we rower, the bands started getting thicker until the entire sky was cloudy. But the “finger” clouds were so unusual and striking, I figured there would be a name for them.

It’s tough to say without a picture, as I can think of a few types of clouds that can fit the criteria. Roll/shelf clouds are associated with thunderstorms but are typically present ahead of the storm, so if the storm was far off to the east, that wouldn’t explain them. How far away was the storm? Another possibility would be transverse roll clouds, but they are typically mid-level clouds, again, usually present in the pre-thunderstorm environment. A 3rd possibility would be inflow bands into the thunderstorm, and those can occasionally be present behind the storm. A lot depends on the upper-level wind pattern though.

Since you seem to mention a 2nd thunderstorm developing after seeing these clouds though, I would probably guess some sort of thunderstorm inflow feature. Roll clouds would seem to fit as well, but I’ve never seen more than one at a time. I googled “inflow band pictures”, but couldn’t really come up with a striking example of one.

The storm hadn’t moved that far to the east, maybe five miles? We could still see occasional lightning off that way but stupidly decided to go out anyway. I don’t know if it’s relevant but, according to the paper, the storm was caused by:

The storm sorta materialized to the west of town and moved east and had hail as well. It also blew up a church bell tower.

When we first went out, the shy was pretty clear (to the west, it was dark and ominous to the east) and then the bands formed and we started seeing lightning in the clouds. By the time we got back to the docks, the whole sky was dark and there were distinct lightning bolts. So maybe it was an inflow thingy…

Was it a 2nd thunderstorm that developed over you, or was the first thunderstorm “backbuilding” (where the storm is moving east, but new development occurs behind the storm). Though in any case, from your descriptions, I’d put a strong vote in for some sort of inflow feature.

Did it look like these “cloud streets”?

Better, more technical explanation

Kinda. But they were a lot more solid and appeared to be lower than those. I been wasting time at work cruising the web looking for any pictures like them and haven’t found anything. I guess they were pretty unusual. Wish I had a photo…



Maybe these? They’re called “wave clouds.”

I know exactly what kind of clouds you’re talking about – I remember seeing them as a kid before some tropical storm (don’t remember which one) hit Houston. Weirdest damn thing I ever saw, and I don’t believe I’ve seen them since. I don’t know what they’re called, but those “wave clouds” are the closest thing I’ve seen posted here yet. They were lumpier, though; this picture from barbitu8’s link is a lot like them, too, except they were thicker and more regular.

Just the other day here in Dallas/Fort Worth I saw clouds similar to the NOAA pics linked by Polycarp and Pride of the Peaches, but broken up like yBeayf’s. We didn’t get any storm, just fronts coming through.