GREENSBORO, N.C. — Waterspouts have been common along the coast this summer, freaking out beach-goers who stare at awe at the funnel cloud-shaped phenomenon moving toward shore. 

There were several waterspouts on the South Carolina coast Saturday, prompting the National Weather Service in Charleston to issue a special marine warning. Waterspouts are either fair-weather or tornadic. The tornadic ones can bring thunderstorms, winds, hail and lightning.


Can water spouts come ashore as tornadoes?


  • Meteorologist Eric Chilton


Chilton explained there are two types of waterspouts -- tornadic and fair-weather. Tornadic water spouts typically accompany huge thunderstorms and are essentially tornadoes that form over the water.They are associated with high winds and seas, as well as large hail and lightning. They can move from water to land, though they typically weaken because of friction.

Fair-weather waterspouts develop at the base of cumulus clouds and are not associated with thunderstorms. They develop from the water up and are not very strong. They show little to no movement and usually dissipate if they hit land. 


Yes, waterspouts can move from sea to land or vice-versa in the form of a tornado, though they typically break up once reaching shore. Pay attention to National Weather Service warnings.

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