How common are tornadoes and waterspouts in hurricanes and tropical storms? While they don’t happen in every storm, they do happen often enough to say it’s common.
In fact, I’ve personally been physically present at the landfall of the past 15 storms to hit land and every one of them had waterspouts or tornadoes present somewhere within the entire system.
A common misconception is both of these weather events only happen where the center of circulation and eye occur. This misconception is false.
These weather events frequently happen far from the core of the storm.
This is why it’s vital to never prepare or plan evacuation and sheltering based on where landfall is projected to occur. Severe and life-threatening winds, rain, damage, and flooding do occur many tens of miles away from the eye.
Atlantic And Gulf Coastal Areas
For many who don’t live in coastal regions or where large bodies of water exist, there’s also the misconception that the structure of these events are different.
Both tornadoes and waterspouts are exactly the same weather event, it’s just that one happens over water whereas the other doesn’t.
A third misconception which is false is these events only happen in stronger Category 3, 4, and 5 storms. This is false. Not only do they exist in Category 1 and 2 storms, they also exist in tropical storms and in some cases tropical disturbances and depressions.
A forth misconception which is false, is these weather events only produce F0 scale vortices. During tropical cyclones, any level of vortices on the Fujita Scale can and do occur. Although, we’ll concede F1 and F0 systems are the most common.
It’s important to remember a hurricane, tropical storm, and a tropical depression or disturbance is a rotating storm. Anytime you have rotation, thunderstorm convection, and swirling winds, there is an increased chance of this weather event happening.
Within every hurricane, there is a engine which pulls in warm moist air at faster and faster rates. This warm air then rises, and as it does it cools. Many times, as this column of air rises, swirling winds will roll the column of air such that conditions for are favorable for tornadic activity.
What can you learn from this article? If you’re on a stretch of coast, or many miles inland, where a tropical cyclone is expected to hit or pass near you, it’s important to prepare for the possibility of tornadoes and waterspouts and not let your guard down because you’re 60 or 70 miles from the center of circulation.
This is especially useful to remember when you are inland and the core of the storm passes over your location after landfall.
Using the comment form below, tell us your thoughts on whether higher category cyclones always produce higher Fujita Scale vortices.
Or, is it just as likely for a Category 5 storm to produce F0 scale vortex rotation as it is for a Category 1 cyclone to produce a F5 vortex?