Check out this “wedge” waterspout that occurred near Panama City Beach Saturday morning. This picture was sent to us by Jessica Mudd, a viewer who was vacationing in PCB.
According to the National Ocean Service, an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there are two types of waterspouts: fair weather and tornadic.
"Tornadic waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water, or move from land to water. They have the same characteristics as a land tornado. They are associated with severe thunderstorms, and are often accompanied by high winds and seas, large hail, and frequent dangerous lightning.
Fair weather waterspouts usually form along the dark flat base of a line of developing cumulus clouds. This type of waterspout is generally not associated with thunderstorms. While tornadic waterspouts develop downward in a thunderstorm, a fair weather waterspout develops on the surface of the water and works its way upward. By the time the funnel is visible, a fair weather waterspout is near maturity. Fair weather waterspouts form in light wind conditions so they normally move very little."
The takeaway here for any beach-goer should be, if there's a thunderstorm, go inside. If that thunderstorm produces a waterspout out over the water, find sturdy shelter immediately. If that storm moves over land, you have a tornado on your hands. That waterspout formed the same way tornadoes form, so it can do damage when it approaches land.
Fun fact: if you're out on a boat, watch the surface of the water. You'll see the water start to spiral before there's enough water in the air to form a visible waterspout.
The National Weather Service office in Tallahassee has been dealing with more severe weather this weekend, but they have a team out looking at the damage this storm did when it moved over land. We saw damage reports come in Saturday afternoon, but until the NWS employees find damage that must have been caused by a tornado, it's not official.