Waterspout Appears off St. John

Image courtesy of Linda and Homer Hickam
Image courtesy of Linda and Homer Hickam

Did anyone happen to catch a glimpse of the waterspout that formed off of the island yesterday? It’s pretty small in the picture above, but it’s definitely there in the upper righthand corner. See it? Linda and Homer Hickam did, and we thank them for passing along a few pics.

Linda Hickam said the waterspout touched down about three times during a five-minute period Wednesday morning. She and Homer were able to see it from their home, Skyridge, which is located in Upper Carolina.

Here’s a closeup pic:

Image courtesy of Linda and Homer Hickam
Image courtesy of Linda and Homer Hickam

So what exactly is a waterspout and how does it form? Well, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it’s a “whirling column of air and water mist.” Here’s a little more detail from NOAA:

Waterspouts fall into two categories: fair weather waterspouts and tornadic waterspouts.

Tornadic waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water, or move from land to water. They have the same characteristics as a land tornado. They are associated with severe thunderstorms, and are often accompanied by high winds and seas, large hail, and frequent dangerous lightning.

Fair weather waterspouts usually form along the dark flat base of a line of developing cumulus clouds. This type of waterspout is generally not associated with thunderstorms. While tornadic waterspouts develop downward in a thunderstorm, a fair weather waterspout develops on the surface of the water and works its way upward. By the time the funnel is visible, a fair weather waterspout is near maturity. Fair weather waterspouts form in light wind conditions so they normally move very little.

If a waterspout moves onshore, the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning, as some of them can cause significant damage and injuries to people. Typically, fair weather waterspouts dissipate rapidly when they make landfall, and rarely penetrate far inland.

Wednesday wasn’t this first time waterspouts have been seen around the island. Bob Schlesinger, of Tropical Focus Photography, reportedly saw four waterspouts in one day back in January 2011. Here’s Bob’s image that captured two of those waterspouts:

Bobs Waterspout

And here’s a short video from July 2012 that captured a waterspout as if formed over the waters north of Tortola:


1 thought on “Waterspout Appears off St. John”

  1. I saw one 5 years ago on St. Croix in May, mid morning as boat left wharf for Buck Island. The funnel was just passing over the peaks of STX and as description said was under the dark line of cumulus cloud passing over island. It was eary to watch it move being from the deep South USA, thinking it was a tornado forming and passing over the island. But realized it was a light weight, as time went on, the dark cloud dissapated as all weather does, broke up.

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