While the condensation funnel did not extend all the way between the cloud and the ground, there was an invisible vortex. That classifies it as a waterspout. It’s unclear if the waterspout brushed over any land masses or bridges; if that was the case, it could technically be classified as a tornado.
This was a tornadic waterspout. That means it formed under the same pretenses as a true tornado, attached to rotation within a parent thunderstorm. McHugh also captured video of the supercell thunderstorm spinning before the waterspout developed:
We can take a look back at radar from earlier Tuesday afternoon to see what was going on.
First, you can see the “hook echo.” It shows the entire storm rotating. While conditions weren’t overly favorable today for supercell thunderstorms, it appears an ordinary thunderstorm may have formed along a sea breeze or become entangled in another boundary. That pumped “vorticity” — or rotational energy — into it, and helped set it spinning.
Switching to a different type of radar image, we can see the rotating winds within the storm:
Cold air on the back side helped tighten the circulation as it approached the coast. Meanwhile, an “inflow notch” can be seen on radar as warm air spirals inward to fuel the storm. The fact that this occurred over water helped intensify the circulation, as inflow wasn’t slowed down by hills, trees, or other elements on land.
The waterspout’s parent updraft was so strong that it locally inhibited rain from falling. This produced a “weak echo region” on radar:
There was no immediate information as to whether or not the waterspout moved over land, nor any reports of damage.
In the wake of the vigorous storm, a vibrant rainbow spanned the sky.
It’s been a rocky couple of days weather-wise in Ocean City. On Sunday, strong storms brought another apparent waterspout and menacing skies to the area:
If you have any photos of the waterspout, send them our way! We’d love to see.