World waterspout record set over Great Lakes, researchers say
MIDDLESEX CENTRE, ONT. -- At least 88 waterspouts or funnels were spotted across the Great Lakes this week, setting a new world record, according to the International Centre for Waterspout Research (ICWR).
The waterspouts were seen between Aug. 16 and Aug. 19, primarily over Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. There were 51 waterspouts/funnels just on Aug. 18.
“We’ve never seen this amount in just four days,” says Wade Szilagyi, director of the ICWR.
Szilagyi is also a meteorologist for Environment Canada and says there are two good reasons for this world record to occur in Ontario.
“It was the hottest July on record and that has a direct impact on water temperature. It helps in the formation of waterspouts.”
Between Sauble Beach, Ont. and Kincardine, Ont. alone, as many as five waterspouts were spotted on the morning of Aug. 17 as a system moved across Lake Huron. That same system spurred tornado watches from Environment Canada.
The spouts made for tense moments for those living along the shoreline, but none are believed to have made landfall or caused damage. Waterspouts travel at a minimum 85 km/h and are capable of severe damage.
It has already been a particularly active tornado season in southwestern Ontario, with half-a-dozen tornadoes confirmed during a storm in late July in addition to four tornadoes confirmed in early June.
The previous outbreak record was set just weeks before, with 84 waterspouts/funnels spotted from Aug. 3-7. An outbreak occurs over a period of two or more days.
Szilagyi suggests that since almost everyone has a camera on their phone and access to a variety of social media outlets now, the sharing of waterspout information is easier than ever.
“I’ve been keeping records on waterspouts since the early 1990s and in the last ten year reports have tripled," he says. “Waterspouts are silent and can go on for an hour or more,” he adds.
“Waterspouts are truly a wonder of nature,” says Szilagyi.
- Wih files from CTV's Scott Miller