Waterspout Over Lake Erie

June 22, 2009


Photographer: Joseph Perry; Marilyn Worczak
Summary Author: Joseph Perry; Jim Foster

The photo above showing an eye opening waterspout was taken on Lake Erie, near Dunkirk, New York, on July 23, 2008. It lasted from 11:30 a.m. to about 11:50 a.m. (Eastern Daylight Time) and as seen here was heading on an ENE track. Waterspouts; though, not as potent as most tornadoes, can’t be taken lightly. They’re more often observed in tropical waters but can occur in mid-latitudes in mid to late summer. Like tornadoes, a rotating column of air dangles from a cumuliform parent cloud but unlike tornadoes, they’re not associated with powerful mesocyclone thunderstorms. As their name implies, waterspouts only develop over water and usually dissipate upon reaching shore. A tornado which travels across a river or embayment is still a tornado or may be referred to as a tornadic waterspout. Only rarely do winds in waterspouts exceed category 0 (65 to 85 mph) on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. Nonetheless, take cover when these whirlwinds approach.