Summer weather sprouts water spouts; readers capture them in photos

July 21, 2009 

Typical summer weather across coastal South Carolina and Georgia early Tuesday spawned multiple waterspouts from Charleston County to Hilton Head and Tybee islands, the National Weather Service said.

No damage or injuries were reported, but shutterbugs across Beaufort County snapped photos and watched in awe between 7 and 8:30 a.m. Sightings were reported near Forest Beach on the south end of Hilton Head.

"It was a favorable morning for the formation," said Rick Thacker, a senior forecaster with the weather service office in Charleston. "Winds were very light and very variable. Water temperatures were nice and warm out there, and everything kind of set up just right."

The tall, whirling columns of wind that hovered over the water are fairly common during the summer months, Thacker said. They form when temperature gradients between the bases of cumulus clouds and ocean blend with light, variable winds.

The spouts have short life spans; few last longer than five or 10 minutes, but many reach speeds between 40 and 50 mph.

"Typically, we see water spouts before July 21, but we've had an interesting early summer weather pattern that hasn't been really favorable -- drier than usual days, and other days we've had lots of thunderstorms around," Thacker said. "You need the quintessential summer day."

Residents could see more water spouts in the next few days if the weather holds.

"They come in clusters," Thacker said. "It was very interesting today, caused a little amount of surprise. Until you start hearing about the first one sighted, it's awful hard to get a grip on them ... and they're just beautiful to look at."

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