Ottawa County dealt with some excitement this morning after a series of waterspouts were spotted on the water near Catawba Island between 9:30 and 10:30AM.
For most people, the question was -- What is a waterspout?
Waterspouts are similar to tornadoes in their funnel shape and general behavior, but they may not be what they seem.
First, water is not being pulled up from the surface of the lake. The funnel you see is a visible weak rotating column of air surrounded by condensation being created by an influx of warm air.
Second, they typically form overwater, beneath a cumulus cloud, but the circumstances for development can vary in each sittuation.
Third, the intensity and potential danger of each waterspout is different. In today's case, waterspouts were a big concern to boaters and marine life, but once these particular storms hit land, they fell apart. It takes a pretty strong storm and lots of warm air to support a waterspout onland for very long.
All in all, it's just a really amazing weather feature to admire -- just don't get too close! :)