Yesterday afternoon, St. John received visits from two different natural phenomenons…Both of which are impressive feats of nature in my book! The west side of the island sat under stagnant, hazy air, while the east end received a bit of rain and quite a show from Mother Nature!
Water spouts can be hazardous or harmless, depending on how they form. I’m glad to say that this one caused no harm to anyone, land or sea, but the photographs that popped up all over Facebook yesterday evening persuade you to believe differently!
The NOAA defines waterspouts as “a whirling column of air and water mist” and places them into one of two categories….Fair Weather Waterspouts or Tornadic Waterspouts. Fair weather waterspouts develop on the base of the water and work their ways upwards and not during thunderstorm-like conditions. They form in light winds and, generally, by the time the spout is visible, they have reached maturity.
Tornadic waterspouts develop over land OR sea and work their way down from thunderstorm clouds instead of upwards. They are associated with high winds and seas and frequent and dangerous lightning.
The one pictured that “popped up” just outside of Coral Bay harbor yesterday afternoon was a fair weather waterspout. The east side of the island had some rain bands moving through yesterday with light winds and a spout that formed over calm seas. Could have fooled me though! When I saw these pictures, I thought for sure a full on tornado had developed in Coral Bay! But, everyone is fine. Everything’s fine 🙂
On the other side of the island, the air was STAGNANT. It was so incredibly hot yesterday and the air was begrudgingly heavy. Some weather sites referred to the haze and congestion of the air as the beginnings of volcanic ash being brought to us on the winds from St. Vincent’s La Soufrière volcano which has been erupting for the better part of the past week. But, the St. Thomas Source reported this morning that it was, instead, a plume of Sahara Dust. In the photo below, you can see the very dark and concentrated cloud in the lower right corner. That is La Soufrière billowing volcanic ash into the atmosphere (Stay tuned on that, I am working on a list of places for you to give in order to support relief efforts on St. Vincent!). The wispy clouds to the north moving over the Virgin Islands are the plume of Sahara Dust moving west on the trade winds.
A natural phenomenon that generally clogs up our skies and stops wind dead in its tracks throughout the spring and summer months, Sahara Dust is made up of tiny dust particles from the Sahara Desert that are transported via the Tradewinds…Bringing African soil into the Caribbean and slowly moving throughout the island nations and territories. So, while those within viewing distance of the waterspout on the East side of St. John got a nice rain and some pretty cool photo ops, those of us on the west side were coughing and wiping sweat from our brows. What a difference a few miles makes, huh?
Yesterday was not a particularly bad case of the dust…We had a few stints with it last year that were HORRIBLE. But, it brought a taste of heavy air and summer temperatures, reminding us that winter is over and spring has sprung…And that summer, and hurricane season, are just about a month away!