Waterspouts on Lake Michigan

On the morning of Friday, September 29, 2006, a few waterspouts occurred over the nearshore waters of Lake Michigan between South Haven and Grand Haven. These waterspouts were embedded within strong showers that formed over Lake Michigan. Cold air above the surface moving over the relatively warmer waters of Lake Michigan, helped to produce Lake Effect rain showers. With the stronger and more organized showers, waterspouts and graupel which is similar to hail were able to form. As the showers moved onshore, they gradually diminished and became disorganized.

Two of the waterspouts, one offshore of Holland and one offshore south of Saugatuck, remained somewhat organized as they moved onshore.  With the expectation they were going to move over land before diminishing, tornado warnings were issued by the National Weather Service Office in Grand Rapids for Ottawa and Allegan counties. There have been no confirmed touchdowns on land as of Friday afternoon.

Waterspouts are somewhat common over the Great Lakes in the Fall season. Waterspouts in the fall occur when colder air above the surface moves over the still relatively warmer waters of Lake Michigan. Most waterspouts that occur in this type of scenario typically occur under plain showers and are much weaker than their summer counterparts. This fall type of waterspout is different from waterspouts associated with thunderstorms. They also form differently than waterspouts associated with thunderstorms. 


Below are pictures of the waterspout offshore of Holland taken from the Spyglass Condo Webcam around 10:45 am.

Below are pictures of a funnel cloud near the Fennville area, taken by Dr. Ray. This funnel cloud is believed to be what was left over from a waterspout that was around 7 miles Southwest of Saugatuck.

Below is a intensity image from NWS  Radar in Grand Rapids around the time of this funnel cloud. The color on the top scale indicates intensity. These were fairly weak showers.


Below is the Dopplar image of the rotational velocity of the storms. Green colors indicate air flow toward the radar and yellow colors indicate air flow moving away from the radar. Note the weak circulation just southwest of Fennville.

Below is a photo of a waterspout offshore south of Oval Beach in Saugatuck from Friday morning September 29th. Note the boat to the right of the waterspout speeding away. Photo by Jim Thias.


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