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 Case summary

We translate from the Belgian French-language journal Inforespace, published by the Brussels based UFO group Société Belge d'Etude des Phénomènes Spatiaux (SOBEPS):

"Strange and totally atypical", that's how we could describe the phenomenon witnessed by a man in full daylight on Saturday July 2, 1994. Did he see a mini tornado? Or was it something else? The question remains open, and although we might be dealing with a meteorological phenomenon, we still need more elements of comparison and verification: can a mini tornado remain "stationary"? But let's take a closer look at what J.M. Karlshausen noted down about this incident during his interview with the witness.

It was between 13h30 and 13h45 in the afternoon. There was a radiating sun and a totally cloudless sky. It was very warm, approximately 30 degrees. Mr. R.D. is at his home in Limelette, in the calm residential quarter of Petit Ri.

The window of his room opens up to the street and you can see the soccer field in the NE. Behind it, at a distance of about 300 metres, there is a piece of waste ground with a few trees.

After a light meal, Mr. R.D. goes to his room on the first floor to get changed. He happens to look out of the closed window and notices an extraordinary phenomenon over the waste ground. He describes it in these words: "I noticed several white structures with rounded edges that moved from right to left and from left to right in vertical positions, they climbed and descended at the same time. It reminded me of a ballet".

The phenomenon is eerie and complex and in response to the questions asked during the interview, Mr. R.D. provides more details: "There were something like ten rectangular objects, elongated and with rounded edges (like ice-lollies), almost like glued together in a vertical position over the landscape. These non-luminous objects all had the same dimensions, supposedly between 5 and 8 metres high, they were of a white translucent colour, like a jelly-fish".

The objects are animated with different, uncoordinated movements, some passing one before the other, others climbing and descending in an erratic manner. The entire phenomenon is stationary at about 56 metres from the ground (measured by triangulation) and despite their different movements, the objects stay grouped together relatively well.

Between the objects the blue sky is not clearly visible, and it is not clear whether the objects are separated or form a whole.

Underneath this formation, something of a darker colour can be discerned in the shape of a dark horizontal band with no clearly visible structure.

Beneath the phenomenon, the dry grass is lifted up very high in the air forming an inversed tornado cone with an anti-clockwise spinning motion. Is the lifted grass snapped up by the phenomenon are does it fall back to the ground? The witness isn't sure.

He watches this spectacle for 2 or 3 minutes ("It was fascinating and strange"), then decides to fetch the camcorder to film the scene. At that moment, one of the vertical objects inside the formation makes half a turn (180 degrees), also in an anti-clockwise direction. This takes about 10 seconds, after which the object regains its vertical position.

This sketch of the phenomenon accompanied the letter that SOBEPS received from the witness in 1994. The explanations in English replace the original French-language comments. In his letter, R.D. mentions that a car had pulled over at the intersection just south of the waste ground.

Almost immediately thereafter, the whole phenomenon starts to move slowly to the north and the grass ceases to rise. A few seconds later the lot soundlessly disappears into thin air, and the sky recovers its serenity.


- "LIMELETTE, le 2 juillet 1994" in Inforespace No. 90, November 1994, pp. 28-29.

- Undated letter from R.D. to SOBEPS.


In July 1994 warm tropical air determined the weather in Belgium. The average temperature that month was the highest ever recorded in the country (21.8° C). On July 2nd, at 1:05 p.m., i.e. about half an hour before the sighting took place, a weather balloon was released from the Royal Meteorological Institute at Uccle, Brussels, less than 20 km (12 miles) northwest of the sighting location. From an altitude of 100 m (328 feet), the balloon transmitted the following data:

- Temperature: 30° C
- Pressure: 996 Mb
- Relative humidity: 45%
- Wind: 5 knots (light breeze), coming in from the southeast

Other official weather data confirmed that there was a clear sky that day, with very few clouds.

These conditions (warm sunny day; clear dry air and little wind) are optimal for the formation of localized whirlwinds also known as wind devils. Wind devils can remain stationary for "2 or 3 minutes". The cloud of dust, plants and other material that is lifted up by the rising spinning air mass around the central funnel, often takes the shape of an "inverted cone".


In August 1994 a British couple spotted this whirlwind moving across a field of corn stubble near Walkington in Humberside. The wind devil lasted for about two or three minutes, tossing straw up to 60 feet in the air.
[© Les HEADLY - photo scanned from Fortean Times No. 80, April-May 1994]

The elongated structures on top, with their rounded edges and white translucent appearance, remind of a formation of vertically stretched out mammatus clouds (see CL-MA-06 in our picture galleries). The fact that the witness saw the entire phenomenon "disappear into thin air" seems to confirm that the white structures were not solid objects.

The most remarkable aspect of this case is the reported movement within the "cloud". Since rapid movements in cloud masses can only be discerned if the cloud is small and close by, this implies that what we are dealing with here is some sort of miniature cloud. According to the article in Inforespace measurements at the site had established that the phenomenon was approximately 300 metres [984 feet] away and less than 60 metres [197 feet] above the ground. If the sketch made by te witness is accurate, this means that the "cloud" itself was a bit more than 20 metres [65 feet] wide. The explicit mention of "dry grass" is another indication that the distance between the observer and the phenomenon was not underestimated (from a greater distance it would have been impossible to determine the nature of the uplifted material). Wind devils normally don't have a parent cloud (contrary to tornados that form as a downdraft from a thundercloud, localized whirlwinds are much smaller and form as an updraft from a sun-heated surface). So the precise nature and origin of the white translucent structures remain a bit of a mystery. At best, it can be speculated that a small isolated cloud got "trapped" inside a pocket of turbulent air on top of the wind devil. Such a cloudlet would be affected by two different movements: the spinning motion of the vortex (when viewed sideways, this could be interpreted as a movement "from right to left and from left to right") and an up and down movement, caused by the colder air above that continuously pushes down the currents of hot air coming from the ground.

When not stationary, wind devils move along with the wind. The witness stated that the phenomenon moved to the north. This too is in good agreement with the weather data, which mention a light breeze coming in from the southeast.

 Our opinion

The phenomenon is undoubtedly of meteorological origin: a wind devil with what seems to have been a miniature cloud on top, possibly mammatus. The case bears some resemblance to an incident that took place in 1954 in the French village of La Feuillade. We are keeping an eye out for additional reports of this nature.

 Notes & References

The details about the weather were borrowed from the library of the Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium.