Earlier today I witnessed and captured on film a short-lived tornadic waterspout on the eastern waters of Lake Okeechobee. The storm first developed northwest of the lake early in the morning and continued to slowly move southeastward across the northern portion of the lake producing intense lightning and torrential rains.
When I noticed the cell on radar earlier in the morning I knew I had to get southeast of the storm, because I've had luck in the past capturing waterspouts on the lake with storms that are tracking southeast on along old outflow or seabreeze boundaries. I made it to the Martin County/Palm Beach County line around 9:30 AM.
I made my way over to Port Mayaca and parked up on the lake levy for a wide open view to the west-northwest. This location never disappoints when it comes to storms rolling across the lake. The storm continued to get closer, so I decided to get out my tripod and camera and get things set up to roll video and stills.
Unfortunately, I did not have all my camera gear with me, as this was a short notice chase after running some early morning errands. All I had with me was one DSLR body with a wide-angle lens and a GoPro3-Black already in the car on the dash. Whatever I had with me I had to make it work.
As the storm approached my location it quickly began to organize and I could see low-level rotation hanging over the water to my northwest. There was some impressive convergence and upward motion taking place and I knew it was time to start rolling some video and shooting stills.
I also realized that I had a GoPro sitting in the car, so I popped it off and mounted it to the trunk of the car and framed up the shot. I normally capture my time-lapses with my DSLR's, but this was the perfect time to test the time lapse feature out on the GoPro3.
It wasn't long after setting up my cameras that the storm really became organized and a "blocky" wall cloud developed with strong inflow into the region. A well-defined funnel developed and extended towards the lake surface. The overall structure was more reminiscent of a tornadic storm (mesocyclone induced) then your typical tropical convective waterspouts.
The time lapse came out okay, the quality isn't up to my standards, but it did the job. You can clearly see everything coming together and converging over a region with rotation developing, and then several touchdowns each lasting a minute to minute and a half each. The total duration was anywhere from 3 to 6 minutes, then the storm quickly became outflow dominant blasting me with strong cool winds.
While the waterspout was ongoing I did make sure to give a call to the National Weather Service in Melbourne Florida to report it. They quickly took my report and issued a special marine advisory for the lake.
All in all, very interesting morning and start to May. Florida received a lot of rainfall the last few days, including numerous reports of flooding in southeast Florida late this afternoon and a few severe weather reports as well. The wet season typically doesn't begin until the second or third week of May.
I am still kicking myself though for not having all of my lenses with me. Lesson learned.
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