Fascinating images of an unusual cloud formation hovering over Grandfather Mountain have got people gabbing on Facebook, with the pictures generating tremendous interest and leading at least one local newspaper to compare the cloud to a UFO.
“Never have seen anything like that before,” one of the dozens of users who commented on the photos wrote. “Unreal, have seen on TV, never the real thing,” another added. “Incredible! Wonder what the wind speeds were?” a third chimed in. “Beautiful, Strange, Mountains are unpredictable,” another said.
Local newspaper The Charlotte Observer compared the images to “something resembling a large UFO,” and said that the images highlighted “a unique weather phenomenon.”
According to Grandfather Mountain’s Facebook page, the cloud is technically known as “altocumulus standing lenticularis,” a form of cloud created when strong, fast-moving winds blow over and around rough terrain, such as a mountain.
The photos were taken in late January by photographer Jim Magruder during a hike near Grandfather Mountain. “The sky did remind me of a scene from the ‘Independence Day’ movie when the invading alien space ships appeared over major cities and blotted out the sun,” Magruder said, speaking to McClatchy News. The professional photographer gave an indication of how large the cloud was by saying that it required taking 10-frame panorama just to capture its breadth.
According to the US Weather Service, while the clouds are generally benign, they can cause problems for nearby aircraft and create severe turbulence.
Grandfather Mountain is part of the Blue Ridge Mountain chain of the Appalachian Mountains along the US East Coast.