Rare January Event in California: Tornado evolves from waterspout

Video follows. The National Weather Service in Eureka writes:

A waterspout developed over Humboldt Bay Thursday, January 25th around 4:40 pm and moved through the Woodley Island Marina, dissipating only a minute or so later. Security cameras on the island captured the waterspout moving through the marina onto the island. Thankfully, the damage reported was minor. However, because the waterspout moved onto land, it technically became a tornado. This is the first confirmed tornado in the NWS Eureka forecasting area (Mendocino, Trinity, Del Norte, and Humboldt counties) since the Fort Bragg tornado on December 5th, 1998.

Of course, I’m sure some alarmist will jump at the chance to say it happened because of “climate change”.

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Adam B.
January 27, 2018 11:53 am

Did this even rank on the Fujita scale?

Rick C PE
Reply to  Adam B.
January 27, 2018 12:01 pm

F-0 since the Fujita scale is based on observable effects after the fact. i.e. Not a tornado – more like a dust devil w/o the dust.

Bryan A
Reply to  Rick C PE
January 27, 2018 12:08 pm

Water demon … cousin to the dust devil

Reply to  Rick C PE
January 27, 2018 12:54 pm

Beat me to it. Barely qualifies as a dust devil. One in rather poor health.

Extreme Hiatus
Reply to  Rick C PE
January 27, 2018 3:11 pm

At least they haven’t started naming them… YET. I’m surprised they haven’t started naming wind gusts.

Reply to  Rick C PE
January 27, 2018 3:50 pm

What? This is a very minor wind vortex, neither a water spout nor a tornado.

Reply to  Rick C PE
January 30, 2018 2:45 am

Greg’s comment should be read by Captain Davey Jones of Flying Dutchman fame.
/ for the full effect I mean.

Reply to  Adam B.
January 28, 2018 1:05 am

We get stuff stronger than that on an average day in rural Australia. They call them willy-willies here. Basically a dust devil. Been around ever since there were people, according to legend.
Same mechanism as a tornado, but a bit smaller, and a lot browner.

Jim Sweet
Reply to  Adam B.
January 29, 2018 10:21 am

Reminds me of the two waterspouts I saw spring from the same T-storm at Port Aransas, TX.
They were quite a bit bigger than this one and when they hit shore, they decayed visibly in a short time, like a braid unwinding. This one was a very weak cousin.

January 27, 2018 12:00 pm

This must have been the smallest briefest tornado on record. A wet dust-devil.

Reply to  tty
January 27, 2018 3:03 pm

Butt a liberal nightmare non the less

Ed Zuiderwijk
Reply to  tty
January 28, 2018 12:48 am

A damp squib.

Reply to  tty
January 28, 2018 1:06 am

It was no match for trees and infrastructure. Whoop. Out it went.

January 27, 2018 12:09 pm

What a load of ………….
You get dozens of waterspouts/mini-tornadoes all year round every time a trough or a squall line moves through. Simply rarely seen because they are so brief and if damage occurs it’s a few tiles one shed roof and 3 deck chairs downed. Simply not news worthy.
Even happens in England!

Reply to  MrGrimNasty
January 27, 2018 6:31 pm

Still, it was kind of cool.

January 27, 2018 12:15 pm

But did the NWS name this tornado?

Alastair Brickell
Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
January 27, 2018 12:30 pm

January 27, 2018 at 12:15 pm
Yes, just wait…it’ll be Superspout Sandy or some such nonsence. Worse ever since records began.

Reply to  Alastair Brickell
January 27, 2018 3:59 pm

Superspout Sandy? You jest: SuperSpout Squirty maybe 🙂

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Ulaanbaatar
Reply to  Alastair Brickell
January 27, 2018 6:21 pm

Squirty McSquirtface

Mike Bryant
January 27, 2018 12:20 pm

It is to laugh… that was no Texas tornado….

Mike Bryant
January 27, 2018 12:24 pm

I didn’t see any cows or witches being blown around by that… breeze…

January 27, 2018 12:24 pm

So funny haha, I have seen dust devils in Nevada that are 10 times that big, are we to now believe they were really tornados?

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  AKSurveyor
January 27, 2018 1:10 pm

Likewise in Eastern Washington. Sometimes there are a dozen at a time, lifting soil into the air such that it melds and produces a light brown sky. If such comes through a campsite it can ruin your day.

Reply to  AKSurveyor
January 27, 2018 8:47 pm

If a vortex is attached to a parent storm cloud, then it is a tornado as opposed to a dust devil. Dust devils form from sun-baked ground upward. Rarely a dust devil can transition into a tornado by joining a cumulus cloud that has a strong updraft – tornadoes generally form from their parent storm clouds instead.
Then there are gustnadoes, which are whirlwinds at the gust front of a thunderstorm or thunderstorm-like squall. They can connect with an overhead storm cloud and there is a bit of gray area between gustnadoes and tornadoes, but in general the storm clouds that tornadoes are attached to have rotation in them and gustnadoes don’t have rotation above them.
Waterspouts are vortices over water. They are generally classifiable as “fair weather waterspouts” or “tornadic waterspouts”, although both are usually technically tornadoes over water. A “fair water waterspout” generally forms in a hotspot of humidity over very warm water in the tropics or in the summer in the subtropics, where a cumulus cloud that is well short of being a thunderstorm is growing from the hotspot of warmth and humidity on a day that had lots of sunshine to make the surface of the water warm enough t5o make this happen, and it typically has windspeed below hurricane force. “Tornadic waterspouts” form from severe thunderstorms and nearly-thunderstorm squalls and typically have less or no dependence on sun-warmed water, and they often (not always) have hurricane-force wind.
Then there is the landspout. That is a term for small weak short-lived tornadoes over land, usually with peak wind strength barely or below hurricane force, and often with their parent storm clouds being other than mesocyclones of supercells. Many of these form in rotating areas in the updraft regions of squall lines, and these squall line rotating regions in their updrafts are generally smaller and shorter-lived than the mesocyclones of supercells. (Then there is the matter of how some thunderstorms in some squall lines can be determined as being supercells, and there is more than one kind of supercell.)

Alastair Brickell
Reply to  Donald L. Klipstein
January 28, 2018 1:17 am

Donald L. Klipstein
January 27, 2018 at 8:47 pm
…yes, there’s Supercell Sandy…coming to a news broadcast near you soon.
Seriously though, many thanks for the illustration that life is much more complex than we thought (it’s worse than…). And I guess the science is not totally settled on the classification of these fascinating whirly things.
I presume the Martian ones are willey willeys or dust devils? No chance of one becoming a tornado…presumably we’re 4 billion years too late to see that. I wonder if you might still get them (tornados) on Titan though?

Peter Morris
January 27, 2018 12:39 pm

I didn’t realize the Fujita Scale went negative.

Reply to  Peter Morris
January 27, 2018 4:39 pm

They’re called odanrots and they take you to the land of Zo.

January 27, 2018 12:48 pm

Where I live we get tons of them…..when they cross land..they are still waterspouts

January 27, 2018 12:52 pm

We have seen waterspouts in the Caribbean — mostly in the channel between Florida and the Bahamas — but one magnificent spout out in south of the Turks and Caicos towards Hispaniola.
That is to say, it looks magnificent as long as its a mile or two away — when it gets on a collision course with the boat — it becomes terrifying — it is a tornado, after all. Not the little parking lot dust devil in the video, but a thousands of feet tall full blown tornado.
Luckily, none ever got close enough to cause any damage.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
January 27, 2018 4:36 pm

The tornadic vortex can extend for a half-mile or more out from the funnel cloud (or funnel water), so contrary to many a silly disaster movie, you don’t need to run into the visible part of a tornado to get blown away. The funnel is an effect of the vortex, after all, not a cause.

January 27, 2018 12:57 pm

In the winter of 87/88, I was on Hwy 1 at Point Sur. I witnessed 18 water spouts forming off the lee of Point Sur. Three times I saw paired spouts (sisters). I watched as each came ashore one after another, across the beach, up the dunes, then to where I sat in a one ton van. Several times I felt the van was lifted up onto two wheels. It was an awesome display. But I bugged out when I saw a much larger spout – far larger and darker than any of the others – as it too began to march across the beach and towards my location on the bluff.

January 27, 2018 1:00 pm

Down here, we call them a “willy-willy”

Reply to  AndyG55
January 27, 2018 2:20 pm

I wonder who has the biggest willy?

Reply to  toorightmate
January 27, 2018 3:06 pm


Reply to  toorightmate
January 27, 2018 4:38 pm

What do you mean? A slick or a sandy willy?

G P Hanner
January 27, 2018 1:07 pm

I’ve seen water spouts in the Caribbean that were truly water-borne tornadoes. I’ve seen leaves swirled by more wind than that “water spout.”

Mike Bryant
January 27, 2018 1:20 pm

If globał warming caused this twisty breeze… then I say… more power to global warming…

Mike McMillan
January 27, 2018 1:24 pm


January 27, 2018 1:40 pm

It looks like those trees did a number on that poor tornado.

January 27, 2018 2:21 pm

I have viewed the security camera videos from California and…….
I want my money back.

Tom Judd
January 27, 2018 2:48 pm

Arnold Schwarzenegger ate too many beans for lunch.

January 27, 2018 2:53 pm

l think calling that a tornado is pushing it abit, it was on the same scale of large “whirl winds” we sometimes get here in England. l’ve seen three whirls on the same sort of scale in 1999 1990 and the mid 70’s.
The last and the best one l saw l wrote a record of the sighting.
August 6th 1999
l was driving along a road this afternoon then l saw a whirl wind in a wheat field next to it. The wheat field had recently been cut and the straw had been left in rows by the machine. The whirl wind just happened to be in the middle of one of these rows of straw. Which lead to a large amount of straw been sucked up and slowly moving in a circle that must have been 40 feet across. Been only a 100m away from it l could understand why in the days of old. That they took these things as the “work of the devil”. As it was a strange and slightly scary sight if you did not understand them.

Green Sand
January 27, 2018 2:58 pm

O gee! Something weird in Cali! Well Im never…

Extreme Hiatus
January 27, 2018 3:16 pm

I live at the intersection of two large valleys (in the mountains) so we get quite of few of these little whirl winds. I was even ‘hit’ by one once. I was expecting to end up in Oz but it just lifted my hat off my head. Bit disappointing.
That said, glad I don’t live where real tornadoes occur.

alastair Gray
January 27, 2018 3:25 pm

very underwhwlming Should be a poster child for AGW Even Mikie Mann and Goreballs would have a job manufacturing catastrophe out of this

January 27, 2018 4:19 pm

California tornadoes are not as unusual as.many people think, and winter is prime season for California’s tornadoes.

January 27, 2018 5:53 pm

Water spouts are legitimate tornadoes, just on water.
Just as tornadoes form, water spouts drop down from high altitude; usually from a super cell thunderstorm.
Thunderstorms kick up far more wind than that wispy whorl; water spouts are serious weather events.
That short wispy whorl wind doesn’t rate measuring on the Fujita scale, where F0 contains 40-73mph winds. That old lady’s breathe of a whorl is more at a B-0 level than a F-0.
Visible damage left by that California whorl? None.
No masts snapped,
No lines are even lifted,
No debris kicked about…
Nor is that whorl lifting surface water up throughout the vortex. It looks like the whorl barely spins the falling mist.
As so many other have already stated, it is a small dust devil type of cyclonic wind.
However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gore purchases the film so he can claim CO2 causes more water devils. As with so much of Gore’s propaganda, it deserves a long belly laugh.

Reply to  ATheoK
January 27, 2018 8:54 pm

See what I wrote above here. Many waterspouts and some land-only tornadoes form from or in association with thunderstorms other than supercells, nearly-thunderstorm squalls, and even lesser cumulus clouds.

January 27, 2018 5:56 pm

This was a water spout/tornado. Formed over water then came ashore.
June 28, 1924: Lorain Tornado
Link to enlarged image. The deadliest tornado in Ohio history struck Lorain and Sandusky on Saturday, June 28, 1924. This was not the largest or strongest tornado to occur in Ohio, but the violent storm struck an urban center where thousands of people were put at risk. There were 85 fatalities, 72 of which occurred in Lorain.
The Lorain Tornado formed over Sandusky Bay and passed eastward, striking the northern edge of Sandusky at 4:35 PM. A nine city block area was damaged, bounded by Adams, Market, Washington Park, and the waterfront. One hundred homes and 25 businesses were destroyed in Sandusky. There were eight deaths in Sandusky.
The tornado continued over Lake Erie before coming ashore at the Lorain Municipal Bath House in Lakeview Park. Buildings were damaged for 35 blocks along Broadway and at least 200 automobiles were buried in bricks and other debris. More than 1000 homes were damaged and 500 destroyed in Lorain. All downtown businesses sustained some damage. The death toll of 15 in the State Theater is the most ever killed by a tornado in one building in Ohio. Dozens of doctors and hundreds of nurses arrived in Lorain Saturday night from Cleveland to attend to the injured. A second tornado touched down west of Vickery in Sandusky County and traveled eastward toward Castalia. Another formed over Huron Township in Erie County. A fourth tornado touched down at about 6 PM near Geauga Lake and traveled 20 miles across northern Portage County. Three farmers were killed in their milking barns north of Mantua.

Reply to  JimG1
January 27, 2018 5:59 pm

Source: ohiohistory.org

Reply to  JimG1
January 27, 2018 9:04 pm

This Ohio waterspout/tornado is a stereotypical to extreme example of a “tornadic waterspout”, with wind force, size, and path length great enough to arouse suspicion that this was a “supercell tornado” as opposed to either the “fair weather waterspout” (which happens in the tropics, or in tropical-like weather in subtropical areas in the summer), or another small short-lived kind of tornado, usually of or close to F1/EF1 strength and frequently of F0/EF0 strength, that sometimes occurs in squall lines.

Joel O’Bryan
January 27, 2018 6:43 pm

It was a cloaked Klingon Bird of Prey.
Here it is uncloaked.

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
January 27, 2018 6:57 pm

BTW, has anyone’s tugboat gone missing?

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
January 27, 2018 7:09 pm

The point (of my sarcasm) being my science fiction explanation (Klingon spaceship) of this natural event is as good as, and certainly more entertaining, than invoking the MagicMolecule™ science fiction.

January 27, 2018 9:07 pm

If *that* was a tornado, then we have dozens of “tornadoes” in southern Arizona every day.

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  David
January 27, 2018 9:26 pm

SoArizona/Australian dust devils are shortwave, surface-heated thermal driven. Just as on Mars.
Explanation: A large parcel of surface (solar shortwave heated) air next to a dry, desert floor starts rising (aka, a thermal) due to buoyancy. As it rises, cooler, surrounding surface air rushes in, and then it is sucked upwards into the ascending thermal. A Dust devil ensues as the thermal rises. The low pressure of the rising air mass (thermal) creates a CCW cyclone.
This is very different mechanism from a water-spout, but it is still one of buoyancy. In the case of the water-spout, the cold air aloft essentially is pulling the warmer surface air mass. Solar SW heating of the surface is not the mechanism as is a dust devil.
Key difference: where the Proximate energy for the vortex is coming from.

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
January 27, 2018 9:27 pm

clarification: CCW in the Northern Hemisphere, CW in the SH (down-under).

Joel O’Bryan
January 27, 2018 9:30 pm

When we watch the toilet water spin, it is going downwards.
When we watch an atmospheric vortex, the air is going upwards. Always!!! It is a low-pressure. Air is ascending. The in-rushing surface air sprials in. A vortex ensues.
The atmospheric Low pressure is an inverted toilet bowl as the air parcel rises.

Ed Zuiderwijk
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
January 28, 2018 1:01 am

I was looking for the flush, but couldn’t find it?

Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
January 28, 2018 9:39 pm

Is it Royal?

Stephen Richards
January 28, 2018 1:21 am

I had a dust devil in my garden bigger than that. Invisible except for the leaves and loose grass it had picked up. Fascinating and wondrous to see.

January 28, 2018 5:21 am

I like the name a wet dust devil. 🙂 I went to school in a building shaped somewhat like an H. The interior corners made perfect wind patterns for the formation of dust devils. They were very frequent. We used to make paper helicopters and launch them near the dust devils and watch the helicopters take off and sail up into the sky and disappear over the roof.

January 28, 2018 10:02 pm

I’ve seen more powerful vortices of stuff flushing down my toilet bowl.

January 29, 2018 8:58 am

I have always agreed with the ancient Greeks that these whirls are actually lesser angels, called “zephyrs”. They have a mind of their own, and can be mischievous. I saw this one time when I was just finishing up a leaf-raking job for a rich man with a palatial house that had two wings extending to the northeast and northwest. His lawn stepped down through a series of terraces to a road, and across the road was a pasture, and at the far side of the pasture I saw a dust-devil of leaves start whirling. I immediately muttered, “Don’t you dare”, but the whirl of leaves came steadily across the pasture, growing larger and larger and containing more and more leaves. It crossed the road and came up between the two wings of the house and proceeded to promptly die, dumping around three inches of leaves over the area I had just finished raking. It looked worse than before I had begun. And wouldn’t you know it? My wealthy employer chose just then to come out to see how I was getting along with the job. He shot me the funniest expression.
These zephyrs are not always unhelpful. Just last week I was struggling to get a campfire going out in a pasture at my Childcare, but freezing rain had coated all my wood with ice and the fire was barely smoldering. I was huffing and puffing, trying to get the fire hot enough to dry the wood by being a human bellows. Just then a most inconsequential-seeming whirl of leaves came across the pasture. Perhaps because of the fire’s slight updraft, it swerved to the fire and just stopped there for around 45 seconds. It seemed to get bigger due to the fire’s heat, and all the coals glowed cherry red as it whirled its wind around the fire. By the time it moved off the fire was blazing. I tipped my hat and thanked that particular zephyr, as it wandered away into the woods.

Tom Stone
January 29, 2018 11:06 am

The folks in Joplin Missouri, Tuscaloosa Alabama, and Xenia Ohio would get a kick out of this article

J Mac
January 29, 2018 11:28 am

Atmospherically speaking, that wasn’t even a popcorn fart.
A semi tractor/trailer passing at 70 mph can make a bigger ‘vortex’ than that!

January 29, 2018 5:25 pm

66 replies. not one person interested in what to me is by far the most important and interesting question : what causes tornados? u wuwt lot are a strange breed, superficially flocking to a nature blog, but rarely trying to understand it. are u any better than the cagw lot u oppose? Or is it a case of dr zeus butter battle book for 99% of u?
[A question, to be sure. But, was the origin of the twisting winds under extreme thunderstorms that cause dozens of “generic tornadoes” over the MidWest and south every year ever brought up before you asked? .mod]

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