Posted: Sep 1, 2011 11:09 PM by Dennis Bragg (KPAX/KAJ Media Center)
Updated: Sep 2, 2011 10:46 AM
SKIDOO BAY- Talk about being in the right place at the right time; both to get a great picture and from a safety standpoint.
People living on the east shore of Flathead Lake had a front row seat as a waterspout formed in the passing winds, towering perhaps 2-to-3 hundred feet above the surface of the lake. Several photos came from Skidoo Bay, which is east of Polson. But there were additional sightings as far north as Bigfork.
(photo courtesy Ron Huff)
The National Weather Service says they didn't have any official sightings of the spout, which doesn't show up on radar. However, they say it was likely the result of cold air aloft and relatively warm air at the surface of the lake.
Click here to see more photos of the water spout.
The "parent" storm cell or building cloud over the lake had fast rising air which "pulled up, stretched and intensified" the preexisting rotation, according to the explanation NWS posted on the KPAX Facebook Page.
KPAX/KAJ meteorologist Chrissy Kohler says a waterspout is weaker than a tornado over land, although winds could have been hitting as high as 65 mph. She says waterspouts don't suck water into the air, but gather spray directly off the surface of the lake.
NWS says the spout is similar to a spinning ice skater, which turns faster and faster as they raise their arms into the air.
It's the second time this year a waterspout has been seen on Flathead.