The first blast of Canadian cold air this weekend is likely to send temperatures plunging to unseasonable lows all over the Eastern and Midwestern U.S. But on the Great Lakes, the sudden juxtaposition of cold with the warmer lake waters is causing a startling atmospheric phenomenon - waterspouts, which essentially are aquatic tornadoes.
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One such funnel formed over Lake Superior on Thursday afternoon between 2:18 p.m and 2:41 pm, according to a photographic timeline created by the National Weather Service's Marquette, Wisc. station. Onlookers posted numerous photos and video clips of the waterspout on Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites. Here's a video of the waterspout that a motorist posted to YouTube.
It's likely that they'll get to see more of them. A computer model run by the International Center for Waterspout Research predicts that an "outbreak" of waterspouts is likely over the weekend. The forecast showing the most likely areas can be seen on the organization's Facebook page.
Waterspouts essentially are tornadoes over water - small-diameter funnels of rapidly swirling air, which usually form from a fast-growing cumulus cloud and stretch down to the water surface. Though they're most often found in tropical areas such as the Florida Keys, waterspouts also occur over the Great Lakes, when there's a sharp enough contrast between cool atmospheric temperatures and warmer lake water.
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While waterspouts are pretty cool-looking when viewed from a distance, they also have fearsome destructive power. A few days ago in Florida, a powerful waterspout traveled onto the shore and lifted up a U.S. Postal Service 18-wheeler and slammed it into the road. "All of a sudden I felt a gust of wind and I thought, ‘Is this what I think it is?'" driver Randall Leaver told ABC News. "I've never been to Hell. I thought I was in Hell." Fortunately, he escaped with only minor bruises.