Waterspout on a popular lake in northern Minnesota
Waterspout on a popular lake in northern Minnesota

Although there were no severe weather events in Minnesota over the holiday weekend, an unsettled atmosphere whipped up some funnel clouds across Minnesota on Sunday, including a waterspout on a popular northern Minnesota lake.

Small, sudden showers and thunderstorms created a handful of “fair weather funnel clouds” across the region to close out the holiday weekend, such as the cloud many saw at Lake Vermilion on Sunday afternoon that developed into a waterspout.

The Duluth office of the National Weather Service spoke of a “well-documented” waterspout that was not only seen on radar starting at about 2:17 p.m., but also included numerous photos and videos taken by people on the lake.

In a social media post, the NWS released a preliminary trajectory of the waterspout, showing it touching down just north of Echo Point, moving north-northeast just past Spider Island, and then rising back over the lake.

National Weather Service Duluth

National Weather Service Duluth

In one of Michelle Claviter-Tveit’s videos, from her vantage point looking towards Big Bay on the lake, the waterspout can be clearly seen lurking behind a row of trees.

Katie Higgins was able to see the waterspout much more clearly from her porch and shared video on X as it swirled across the lake.

Statistics from the National Weather Service on this waterspout

The National Weather Service issued an initial assessment of the waterspout based on photos, videos and radar data, classifying it as EF0 on the tornado scale, the lowest level on the scale.

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They estimate that the waterspout’s maximum wind speed is 65 miles per hour, that its path across the lake is 1.9 miles long, and that the waterspout is about 100 feet wide.

According to the NWS, no damage reports were available at the time of the first assessment.

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As I mentioned before, this is called a “fair weather waterspout,” although it has been associated with a thundercloud.

What is the difference between a “fair weather” and a “tornado” waterspout?

Waterspouts come in two different forms: tornado-like and fair-weather. Tornado-like waterspouts are, as the name suggests, tornadoes on water. They form from the cloud base of a severe thunderstorm downward and tend to be more aggressive than fair-weather waterspouts.

Fair weather waterspouts, on the other hand, are generally slower moving, weaker, and tend to form in less severe weather, as was the case on Sunday. Relatively light, circulating wind conditions can kick up one of these fair weather waterspouts.

While they are weaker and less aggressive than a tornado-like waterspout, they can still cause damage if they come into contact with a watercraft, boat lift, etc. While they are not as severe as a tornado, circulating winds of 65 mph can still be quite powerful.

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Gallery credit: Nick Cooper – TSM Duluth

By Liam