Waterspout - Summerland Key, FL
June 7, 2002 by Jim Edds
For the second time in my life I set up my tripod and camera, pointed in the direction I
thought a waterspout would form and it happened. In this case just three minutes after
my initial prediction on film. I first saw Jim Leonard do this a few years ago and was in awe.
Three different rain showers came and went in the Lower Keys this day and cloud lines
with dark flat bases were pretty much everywhere. This wasn't the typical cumulus line
by a long shot. More like an atmospheric washing machine - it was very chaotic with
showers in every direction.
I was just about to give up on my third trip out when I spotted a nice rain free line. I pulled
over at mile marker 23.5 and set up my equipment with the camera pointed ocean side.
I filmed the area I thought a waterspout would form based on experience and gut feeling.
Sometimes the latter is better than experience! Since lines were in three different directions,
I climbed up the bank to the old US1 bridge for a birds eye view. I was checking on each line
every few seconds when I looked south (the direction my camera was pointed) when I saw
a complete waterspout about 1/4 to 1/2 mile out.
I had actually thought the rain would kill any chances of a waterspout forming so when the rain
free base started to fill in I wasn't optimistic. This spout formed in front of the rain and
luckily the cool air pushed it north - towards me. Even though it was a "skinny" waterspout,
it came to within 50 yards of my position before dissipating. I was able to zoom in really
close and get the awesome collar cloud and rotating air spiraling upwards. The
first clip is of
my target area & prediction, the second of the spout (just a scant 3 minutes later), and the third
of the roping waterspout with some cool close-ups. This was the first spout I could
This waterspout moved rapidly toward shore. I really thought it was going to hit me so I yelled
at the folks that had pulled over and gathered on the old bridge behind me to get ready to seek
cover. I was zoomed out all the way and still couldn't fit the entire spout and
collar cloud in the
frame. Never had that problem before. So I mainly concentrated on close ups of the spray ring,
tube, and collar cloud.
At the speed the waterspout was moving calling it in to the NWSO would have been futile. It
would have been long gone before the special marine warning went out. Besides, I left my
cell phone in the car anyway. As it turned out this spout lasted only 3.5 minutes. This seems
to be the case with spouts swept along by rain shower outflows. When the spout got within
50 yards it made a right turn and slowly spun out. I could see the water moving left to right in
the foreground and the opposite direction in the background. That was cool! The spout also
had a nice wave train emanating outward.
Right behind the spout was a gust front and a whole lot of rain. I was so focused on filming the waterspout that I forgot about
the rain shaft right behind
it. I punched the quick release on the
tripod head and quickly gathered the equipment and dashed back to the car. I remember
hearing one of the onlookers who just pulled up say, "Dude, you got that on video?? Awesome!"
Yeah, I keep the camera with me always. Now everyone knows there's no such thing as a
Sasquatch but when one finally jumps out in front of me I'll nail that sucker!
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