Rare Waterspout Spotted Near Park Point in Duluth / Superior Area [PHOTOS]
While not totally rare to the Great Lakes, waterspouts aren't usually seen around the Twin Ports. Today, however, was an exception.
Around 11 am reports started rolling in that a waterspout was spotted about 2 miles off Park Point over Lake Superior. Tied to these reports is another report of a funnel cloud spotted moving over Barker's Island around the time of the incident. Since then, photos have surfaced showing that the waterspout had moved into the harbor.
The National Weather Service has acknowledged the sighting and is looking into it. In the meantime, the questions "What is a waterspout" and "What causes waterspouts?" have been getting asked on social media.
Waterspouts come in two different types: fair weather, and tornadic waterspouts. As the name suggests, fair weather waterspouts are not severe and are not caused by thunderstorm activity. Fair weather waterspouts form at the water's surface due to light, circulating wind conditions. This type of waterspout usually doesn't extend from the water surface to the clouds, and they generally don't move very much before disappearing. While this type of waterspout is an interesting spectacle, they tend to be much weaker than a tornado.
Tornadic waterspouts, basically speaking, are tornadoes on water. This type of waterspout forms with a severe thunderstorm, extending from the sky downward toward the water surface, similar to it's land relative. This type of waterspout has the potential to be far more violent and severe than the fair weather type, and can move onto land along with the storm causing it.
The National Weather Service is looking into the waterspout. At the time of the waterspout, there was a thunderstorm moving through the area. Also, the gusty wind conditions along the shoreline could be the cause of the spectacle. The NWS does have a small craft advisory active along the shoreline due to gusty wind and large waves. If the report of a funnel cloud is indeed true, this may have been a tornadic waterspout.
Here are some photos of the waterspout from earlier today. If you have any of your own you'd like to share with us, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATE: The National Weather Service has preliminarily confirmed there was a funnel cloud that dissipated after passing over Barker's Island at 11:20 this morning. The report comes from a trained spotter in the area.