Twin Waterspouts dazzle onlookers over Lake Michigan

Dueling “twin waterspouts” dazzled onlookers Thursday afternoon over lake Michigan off Kenosha, Wis.

Image: Officer Mike Madsen Kenosha Police Department

Check out these incredible photos captured by the the Kenosha Police Department.

Waterspouts are relatively rare in the Upper Midwest. The spouts are simply tornadoes over water thus the name. The storms are spawned from parent thunderstorms just as they are over land when they are called tornadoes. Conditions were perfect along the shore of Lake Michigan for the twisters, with plenty of low level wind shear — twisting winds near the surface. No damage was reported and the apparently twisters did not move over land.

Image: Officer Eric Larsen Kenosha Police Department

Twin twisters danced of the Lake Michigan shoreline around 1:30pm this afternoon. The Milwaukee National Weather Service issued special marine warnings alerting boaters of the danger.

Image: Officer Mike Madsen Kenosha Police Department

Here’s some good video shot by Diane Giles from the Kenosha News.

Heres’ the storm report from the Milwaukee NWS.

PRELIMINARY LOCAL STORM REPORT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MILWAUKEE/SULLIVAN WI
329 PM CDT THU SEP 12 2013

0132 PM WATER SPOUT 2 E KENOSHA 42.58N 87.78W 09/12/2013 LMZ646 WI TRAINED SPOTTER

WATERSPOUT APPROXIMATELY 1 TO 2 MILES OFFSHORE LOOKING SOUTHEAST AT SOUTHPORT PARK.

  • hsl

    Paul, could you provide more info on waterspouts? Things like, do they ever come ashore and cause damage? How large a body of water is required to generate a waterspout? Thanks for your expert information

  • Chris B. Critter

    It sounds like you’re using the older definition of “waterspout,” meaning “tornado on the water”. A true waterspout forms by a mechanism very different from that of a tornado. In my recollection, waterspouts (and landspouts) form from the bottom up from converging winds at the surface. Tornadoes form from the top down due to a midlevel circulation in the cloud extending downward toward the ground (as far as we know).

    This feature looks to me like a tornado over water, and it has a satellite vortex (perhaps a failed multivortex tornado?). It is still a tornado whether it formed over the land or the water. Look at the debris cloud (or debris spray, I guess.) Waterspouts don’t do that. Tornadoes do.

    I know the MKX WFO called it a “waterspout.” I think they used that older definition of the word, too.

    Unless someone can convince me otherwise, that’s a tornado.