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Saturday, October 6, 2012


The discussion around Choiseul on Saturday afternoon at about 2 pm was all about tornadoes and tsunamis. I personally saw the spectacle on the body of water between St. Lucia and St. Vincent, and I was initially at my wit’s end trying to figure what was happening! Was a tornado about to strike?

Although we concluded that it was an approaching weather or marine phenomenon, we could not tell whether it was a tornado or a tsunami. And before you knew it, we had shifted to emergency mode, rushing to do a few little things to secure life and property in the event we were struck by either of them.

The apparently extreme weather conditions spreading outward from the “centre” of the system made the situation look even more eerie; and before we could say “Jack Robinson”, Choiseul was completely enveloped by heavy torrents of rains and fairly strong wind gusts bombarding the surrounding hills; visibility was perhaps less than 50 metres away. 

But before you knew it, something rather strange happened: those weather conditions disappeared as fast as they came, with only a lingering high-altitude cloudiness left behind.

Obviously, my neighbourhood breathed a deep sigh of relief, but apparently not everybody did, as I found out when I journeyed to the village!

Upon arrival in the village, some residents were seemingly still shaken by the spectacle and the talk about it lingered on. There was obviously an element of fear still hanging over the villagers. This was aptly captured by a question a young asked me, “Was this thing the sign of a tsunami coming later?” and he wanted to know if the village was safe tonight.

When the dust settled and upon research, I found that it was only a water sprout! The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the United States Department of Commerce reports on its website ( that there are two categories of water sprouts namely “tornadic” and “fair weather

The tornadic water sprout is a tornado either formed over water or moved from land to water. The NOAA reports that they share the same characteristics as land tornadoes and are accompanied by severe thunderstorms, high winds, high seas, large hails and frequent dangerous lightning.

The fair weather water sprout “usually form along the dark flat base of a line of developing cumulus clouds and 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”. (NOAA)

NOAA went on to say: “If a waterspout moves onshore, the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning, as some of them can cause significant damage and injuries to people. Typically, fair weather waterspouts dissipate rapidly when they make landfall, and rarely penetrate far inland.”

Although the phenomenon we saw earlier today (Saturday) resembled a “fair weather” water spout, my unscientific opinion is it might have been something bigger; In my judgment, it may have been a “hybrid” of the “tornadic” and “fair weather” versions. I’m sure the Met office may be able to help clarify!

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