A week of wild waterspouts produced several astonishing videos across the globe — from ropelike waterspouts dancing harmlessly over European waters to one that ran aground and briefly spun into a tornado, sending beachgoers scrambling for safety.
There are two dominant types of waterspouts — supercell waterspouts and what are often called “fair-weather” waterspouts. Supercell waterspouts are associated with strong, rotating thunderstorms and share many characteristics with twisters that form on land. Fair-weather waterspouts, which form without a strong parent thunderstorm, develop largely thanks to spin closer to the surface rather than in the clouds. They tend to be weak but can occasionally pack a punch.
Any waterspout that hits land, even briefly before dying off, becomes a tornado.
At times, the waterspout appeared nearly indistinguishable from an elephant trunk tornado, losing some of its width and definition as it shifted into a loose, sinuous shape. No injuries or damage were reported from this storm.
On Tuesday, what appeared to be a strong waterspout formed off Destin, Fla., which is on the state’s Gulf Coast. The large waterspout was captured as it moved parallel to at least one beachside resort, with an intense thunderstorm shooting off lightning behind the storm.
Several Special Marine Warnings were issued over the course of the day by the National Weather Service’s Mobile office, including several Tuesday afternoon off Destin that warned a waterspout was possible.
The Weather Service in Mobile later posted tweets explaining how Tuesday’s waterspout formed.
“The Destin waterspout was a rather impressive one, and shows what the idealized environment can do to produce waterspouts,” the Weather Service in Mobile tweeted, adding that a large amount of spin amid strong thunderstorms allowed the intense waterspout to form.
Despite the storm’s intensity, no injuries or damage were reported as the waterspout remained safely offshore.
A waterspout also formed off the coast of the United Kingdom on Tuesday, a place that most typically don’t associate with tornadoes.
The twisting tendril of the waterspout touched down near the mouth of Fowey Harbor, which is in the country’s south and faces the busy English Channel. Video shows the ropelike spout’s funnel connecting to the surface as the storm churns up tons of water.
Tornado touching water in the mouth of Fowey estuary and seen by all aboard. Captured by one of our passengers Steve Roper who kindly let us share! Jaw dropping for Cornwall! @BBCCornwall @BBCSpotlight @KWTWeather @BBC #tornado #Cornwall pic.twitter.com/PUIe4TzNnu— Mevagissey To Fowey Ferry (@mevaferry) August 16, 2022
According to reporting from the Independent, thunderstorms caused chaos in parts of the U.K. on Tuesday and Wednesday, with flash flooding affecting parts of London. Yellow thunderstorm warnings were in effect for the coastline where the waterspout formed.
“It was all an amazing sight, remarkable,” Mark McCartney, who spotted the waterspout and took a video of it, told the Independent.
Back in Florida, another waterspout formed early Wednesday afternoon just off Reddington Beach, a town near Tampa Bay. Video captured by beachgoers shows the noisy waterspout kicking up water just feet from shore before it moves onto the beach, becoming a potentially dangerous tornado.
Images show several pieces of small debris flying into the air as the base of the tornado moves down the beach, nearly running over several people. One man appears to be nearly struck by the tornado as it makes its way over a beachside pool, violently launching chairs into the air.
WFLA Chief Meteorologist Jeff Berardelli told his station that the waterspout was of the fair-weather variety, as there was no parent thunderstorm supporting its development — though such waterspouts can still cause minor damage.
Two weeks ago, another waterspout moved ashore in Smith Island, Md., destroying several homes and injuring at least one woman. The twister was later rated as a high-end EF-1 with winds of up to 100 mph, according to the National Weather Service.