By Sarah Wroblewski

WORCESTER (CBS) – It was a bright and sunny Friday afternoon on Lake Quinsigamond when something very strange started happening in the water.

Video shot by Renee Shakour on the south side of the lake shows what looks to be a waterspout dragging a small boat from shore, nearly tipping it over. For more than a minute, the boat spins and swirls around a spot in the water where the wind column touched down.

“Jason, what is it?” Shakour says. “Don’t go out there with that waterspout going on.”

She said no one was hurt and other neighbors helped to retrieve the boat.

“I thought it was a little tornado but I was surprised because there were no clouds in the sky,” Renee Shakour told WBZ.

She says this whirlwind whipped up out of nowhere. “We were sitting downstairs on the swings and all of a sudden this huge gust of air came and I didn’t even know how to describe it,” she said.

This occurred just days after multiple waterspouts were spotted on the Cape during severe weather. While the two share the same name, they were formed in completely different conditions.

First off, waterspouts are whirling columns of air and water that typically form during the warmer weather months over oceans, rivers, harbors and even lakes. Waterspouts can form during severe weather like we saw over Cape Cod earlier in the week, or on bright sunny days.

On Cape Cod, the waterspouts where produced by severe thunderstorms. They technically could be called tornadoes over water, or tornadic waterspouts. That vertical column of strong, rotating winds extended from the base of the thunderstorm cloud down to the ground or water. They can move from land to water or vice versa. Also like ordinary tornadoes, they can be destructive.

“The tarps came ripping off and went close to about 200 feet up in the air,” Shakour said.

In the case in Worcester, you’ll notice a few cumulus clouds in the sky, but no severe weather in the area. I’m assuming this was a fair weather waterspout that formed because we had warm temperatures in the layer of air near the surface combined with high humidity.  The warm air near the surface will quickly rise, forming an updraft.

If the conditions are just right, the updraft may begin to rotate. Typically a dark spot will form on the surface of the water, then that spot will gradually spin, then some mist and water begin to form a ring around it before it dissipates. Fair weather waterspouts are short-lived, weak and generally not dangerous. In this case, the waterspout happened to form right where that boat was, so you can see the boat get caught up in the circulation, and lifted a bit as it got stronger before the circulation moved away and dissipated.

If this waterspout moved on land, it then would be called a landspout. . . but fair weather waterspouts tend to dissipate before that happens.  Unlike a tornadic waterspout where the tornado forms from the cloud to the ground, a fair weather waterspout develops at the surface and makes its way upward in the atmosphere. This is a similar case to dust devils, where they develop on sunny days where the heating of the sun creates a swirling updraft and a well-formed whirlwind of dust.

If you happen to be out in the water when one forms… don’t try to get close to it. The best advice would be to move away by traveling at a 90 degree angle from its movement.

Sarah Wroblewski


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