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Waterspout in Miss.: The Difference Between That and a Tornado

Waterspout
Chris Davis

PHOTO: Tweeted by the National Weather Service

RANKIN COUNTY, Miss.–You probably saw the pictures on TV and on Twitter. It was a waterspout Wednesday that formed over the Ross Barnett Reservoir in Rankin County and people in the area were both snapping pictures and video and running for cover. National Weather Service Meteorologist Alan Campbell tells News Mississippi there is a difference between that and a tornado.

The last time there was a waterspout on the reservoir, an inland body of water, was in 2012.

Campbell said essentially, that a tornado is a violently rotating column of air associated with a severe thunderstorm, that is capable of winds up to 300 mph and is extremely destructive.

A waterspout, on the other hand, may or may not be associated with a severe storm, forms over water and has contact with that water, and winds are not as strong.

“They don’t get up around what the tornadoes do, but they do get up to 50, 60, maybe 70 mph. If they do come ashore, they make it 25 to 50 yards before they dissipate,” said Campbell.

He said they can be dangerous, especially if you’re on the water.

“Definitely to boaters. You don’t want to get near it. IF you live on the reservoir or on the beach, any type of unsecured object can be picked up and tossed.”

Courtesy National Weather Service

Courtesy National Weather Service

Campbell said the weather that caused severe thunderstorms in north Mississippi and the Delta Wednesday would not likely be as severe today, with pop up thunderstorms likely producing heavy rain and 30 to 35 mph winds.

He said a frontal boundary was situated near Memphis and would likely move south today.

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