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As every Belizean was tuning in to their radio stations for the landfall of Tropical Storm Harvey, an unexpected Tornado "Watersprout" made landfall first early in the morning on August 20, 2011 in Crooked Tree Village. Reports from villagers reveal that seven family homes were affected. Crooked Tree is home to many cashew plantations of Belize and many of the trees were destroyed. There are many Belizeans that are concerned, which in result many questions come up. Was it a Tornado or a Watersprout? Will Belize be affected by more Tornados? etc. Below is a little theory of a Tornadic Watersprout.

Theory of a Tornadic Watersprout

The distinction between a tornadic waterspout and a non-tornadic waterspout. A tornadic waterspout is one that originated as a tornado over land, and eventually moved over water. These become very dangerous for boats and marinas, and especially boats not anchored or tied down. Tornadic waterspouts are typically more dangerous than "fair weather waterspouts", and are usually much larger. Non-tornadic waterspouts average between 3-100 meters, and have rotating winds less than 45 kts. which would make it an F0 tornado had it been over land.

Waterspouts not only form over the sea, but can also develop over larger lakes. One of the biggest misconceptions about waterspouts is that it is assumed that a waterspout draws up water from the body of water it is over. This is NOT true. The water that makes a waterspout visible largely comprised of the same things that tornadoes are made visible by, condensed water vapor and dust with converging winds that rise around a core. However, some of the water you see at the very bottom of the waterspout is spray from that body of water, but only goes up a few meters.

Waterspouts are very common in areas where there are daily convective thunderstorms. Tornadic waterspouts are far more dangerous, less common and more damaging.

Video by Ryan Sealy

Dorian Nuñez's picture

Dorian Nuñez


  1. avatar

    The theory of waterspout vs landspout vs. tornado requires refinement (In my opinion). The mechanisms between a landspout and waterspout are completely different. You will not find a landspout coming out of a rainshower like in the Florida Keys.. Landspouts are normally associated with at least a strong or severe thunderstorm. Additionally, I'd think a torando is a tornado (land or water no matter where it originates)...a waterspout originates only over water and dies very quickly over land...on the other hand..a tornadic simply a tornado that formed over water and might not have rotation evident throughout the vertical column of the storm...but mainly in the lowest levels and perhaps entering the bottom of 'the mid-levels'..whereever that is...don't know. What's next? A tornadic landspout?  Maybe the emphasis should be reversed..a landspout tornado for those tornadoes that do not develop within a mesocyclone...and a tornadic waterspout that forms over water (not land as written in this article)....or simply..a weak tornado..and waterspout..solely dependant on water to exist. Otherwise, it's just a weak tornado and leave it at that...

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