Waterspouts — weak tornadoes that form over large bodies of water — were spotted about a mile off Humboldt County’s shore yesterday.
Local photographer Kevin LoMiglio tells the Outpost that he spotted the funnel clouds while driving on Mattole road near Capetown around 6:30 p.m..
“I always wanted to be a storm chaser growing up, so the moment I saw this funnel cloud I was overly excited,” LoMiglio said. “I first saw it barely skimming the ocean. By the time I pulled over and switched lenses it was completely lifted, but still majorly disrupting the ocean’s surface.”
Meteorologist Brad Charboneau of Eureka’s National Weather Service told the Outpost this morning that funnel clouds are very difficult to spot on radar, but that waterspouts were possible during that time yesterday.
“I’m looking at the radar and it looks like several small showers and areas of very weak rotation that tend to accompany waterspouts were starting to develop around that time,” Charboneau said. “Typically when you see these weak areas of rotation they don’t produce waterspouts, but every once in a while they will.”
After reviewing LoMiglio’s photos, the meteorologist said the images look authentic and seem to show several standard waterspouts swirling off the coast.
“Wow, there’s several of them. That certainly looks legitimate to me,” Charboneau said as he reviewed the images. “One thing we want to remind people is that while these waterspouts technically are tornadoes, they’re very weak and very rarely do any damage. Sometimes people will see them and get very worried, but they’re not particularly uncommon for our area. They’re more meteorological oddities than anything else.”
Although waterspouts are typically not dangerous, Charboneau said it’s still wise for people to stay the heck out of one’s path.
“I certainly wouldn’t recommend driving your boat into one by any means,” he said. “It’s very unusual that it causes harm to anybody. Occasionally they can briefly move on onto land or the beach, but they dissipate very quickly. The wind speeds associated with these are not going to cause any significant damage.”
While these occurrences are somewhat common for our area, Charboneau said they are rarely caught on camera.
“You should consider yourself pretty fortunate to capture one on video,” Charboneau said. “If anyone sees waterspouts like these in the future, go ahead and give [the NWS] a call and send us photos.”
Bill Paxton would not be impressed by these tornadoes.