Warehouse G

What's Up There?

Wheel” In The Sky Over Louisiana

By James Donahue

Odd cloud formations come along every once in a while that excite people on the ground who happen to look upward and see them. But the wheel that appeared in the heavens over Raceland, Louisiana the weekend of December 13-14, 2008, caused switchboards at area police, television and newspaper offices to light up.

It was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen,” Raceland resident Sandra Leder told the local newspaper. She also furnished the photograph that appears with this story.

The formation looks like something punched a giant hole in a layer of overhanging clouds. And a local meteorologist, Shawn O’Neill, of the National Weather Service in Slidell, said that may be exactly what it was. He called it a rare phenomenon known as a “hole-punch cloud.”

O’Neill said a cloud formation like that can be caused when an aircraft intersects with altocumulus or cirrocumulus clouds. He said an aircraft dropping through or climbing through ice crystals in a super-cooled liquid cloud of water droplets could cause a hole to appear in the sky.

He said the jet stream also could cause such a formation by causing small-scale movements in the atmosphere.

Leder said she was skeptical about O’Neill’s explanation. “It completely circled my house and then disappeared. It was too big, too round and too low to be caused by a jet,” she said.