(This story, originally posted at 10:45 a.m., updated at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.)

Funnel clouds and/or waterspouts observed near Chesapeake Bay Bridge (Maryland Natural Resources Police)

On a tranquil summer morning, the atmosphere over some of our nearby waterways conjured up quite the surprise! Multiple funnel clouds and waterspouts were observed near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. And separately, a funnel cloud associated with thunderstorm was seen in Virginia Beach.

Eyewitnesses said numerous funnel clouds lined up along a broad expanse of cumulus clouds splitting the Chesapeake Bay from north to south. They were seen both from the Bay Bridge and adjacent shores. They were likely in contact with the water at times, classifying them as waterspouts.

“At least six waterspouts formed over the Chesapeake Bay below the Bay Bridge this morning,” said the Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) on its Facebook page. “One touched down right on top of a NRP patrol boat.”

Multiple funnel clouds observed off of the Idlewilde on The Bay pier in Shady Side, Md. at 8:32 a.m. July 17, 2015 (Eric Anderson)

Baltimore meteorologist Justin Berk received video of at least one funnel near the Bay Bridge from Virginia Greene, recorded between 8 and 9 a.m., embedded below:


It’s not clear if the funnel is touching down in this video, although Berk called it a waterspout on his blog.

The funnels observed over the Chesapeake Bay were not associated with a severe thunderstorm.  Instead, they developed from converging winds which vertically stretched some low level spin near the water’s surface.

The Capital Gazette offers some additional explanation on the their formation:

Meteorologist Bryan Jackson from Baltimore/Washington office of the National Weather Service said land breezes from the east and the west converged in the middle of the bay Friday morning, making conditions ripe for water spouts.

Like tornadoes that appear on land, water spouts can be dangerous, Jackson said. He called the formations “rare,” but said his office typically sees a few every year.

“It’s a very fine balance to get that to form,” Jackson said.

(National Weather Service)

More than likely, what formed were fair weather waterspouts – which typically last 20 minutes or less with peak winds of 65 mph or less.

To the south, WTKR NewsChannel 3 out of the Hampton Roads received this video of a funnel cloud recorded about an hour earlier, which formed entirely independently from the Chesapeake Bay funnels:

Check out this video a viewer recorded of a funnel cloud forming off the Oceanfront this morning.The National Weather Service had issued a special marine warning that expired at 7:45am. http://link.wtkr.com/1JmJ22m

Posted by WTKR NewsChannel 3 on Friday, July 17, 2015


The National Weather Service had issued a Special Marine Warning for coastal waters near Virginia Beach at 7:12 a.m. that expired at 7:45 a.m. It said doppler radar indicated a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a waterspout located over the Virginia Beach oceanfront – exactly where the above funnel cloud was observed.

Radar image showing thunderstorm responsible for generating funnel cloud near Virginia Beach

More waterspout stories from the Capital Weather Gang from the past:

Tornado or waterspout spotted in Ocean City, Maryland

Funnels at the beach: video from Delaware and Florida

Waterspouts wow Florida onlookers

Brazilian beachgoers bowled over by blustery waterspout (Video)

Waterspouts swarm Greece and Italy