Funnel Clouds Seen, Waterspouts Spotted over Chesapeake Bay

A funnel cloud on the lower Chesapeake Bay Saturday afternoon caught many people off guard.

The blog site, Southern Maryland News NOW!!, obtained two pictures of funnel clouds descending from the sky.

Storm Team 4’s Chuck Bell said the cold front that passed by on Friday night helped to set the stage. Cool, dry air was coming into the region with a North wind.

Strong August sunshine warmed the air near the ground while the air aloft stayed relatively cool, Bell said. This set up with cool air above warm is called instability. No matter where in the area you were yesterday, you could see an example of it.

Bell said the skies were 100% clear at 11 a.m., but bubbling cumulus clouds filled the skies by 1 p.m. By late afternoon, daytime heating and instability were maximized.

Water spouts occur where that instability is at its greatest. The warm air is rising quickly into the clouds. As the air rises it cools and the pressure drops.

The lowering temperature and pressure causes a condensation funnel to form. If the funnel reaches the water, it is called a waterspout.

If the waterspout were to reach shore, it would be reclassified as a tornado. The pictures clearly show the funnel, but since it was not touching the Bay, it was not technically a waterspout.

The National Weather Service did issue two local storm reports on Saturday. One report at 5:30 p.m. said two waterspouts were spotted near Oxford, Md., and another at 6:02 p.m. said a waterspout formed just off the coast near the Patuxent River Inlet.

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