Multiple waterspouts reported off the coast of the Lowcountry this morning. Most reports came in from Edisto up to Folly Beach between 9 to 10 am on Saturday.
What is a waterspout? Similar to a tornado, it is a rotating column of air. However, waterspouts occur over bodies of water. Two types of waterspouts can form, tornadic or fair weather. Tornadic waterspouts form similarly to tornados from within a thunderstorm, just over the water. Fair weather waterspouts happen when cooler air moves over warm water, allowing the warm moist air to rise. Add some wind shear, change of wind direction with height, and that causes the column of air to start to spin.
Are these dangerous? Some can be, any waterspout has the potential to move onshore. If it does, it can cause the same type of damage as any land tornado. Most waterspouts form with little warning if you see anything that looks like a funnel clouds move off the beach right away.