A record-breaking number of waterspouts in a single day have been spotted over Lake Erie, according to the International Centre for Waterspout Research (ICWR), with local weather-watchers posting striking images and videos of the phenomenon.
There were 181 total waterspouts detected over the Great Lake, which straddles the borders of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Canada on Saturday with one observer sighting 72 on their own, the organization said.
The previous record came in early October 2020, when 82 waterspouts were recorded over the Great Lakes in a single day. Newsweek approached the ICWR via email for further comment on Monday.
A waterspout is a small vortex of air akin to a tornado that forms over water. They begin as a funnel that descends from a turbulent cloud formation before touching the surface of a body of water but do not typically suck up water.
The National Weather Service (NWS) stations in Buffalo, New York and Cleveland, Ohio issued several marine warnings over the waterspouts on Lake Erie on Saturday morning.
“Boaters please take caution as waterspouts can easily overturn boats and create locally hazardous waters!” the station in Buffalo warned.
“Conditions will remain favorable for waterspouts today through Wednesday with strong instability over the lakes,” meteorologists at the station said in the latest forecast discussion. “Waterspouts are most common in and near bands of lake effect showers.”
Among the waterspouts recorded by weather-watchers were ones seen near Fairport Harbor, Ohio, and Ripley, New York. Another was also seen on Lake Ontario, near Whitby, in Canada, the same day.
“Crazy waterspout fest early this morning on Lake Erie,” Ty Stevens, a self-described weather enthusiast and photographer, wrote alongside several images of waterspouts over the body of water, including one picture that showed three funnels descending at the same time.
Another posted a timelapse of the view from Buffalo Harbor early on Saturday morning, showing a waterspout beginning to form from the bottom of a cloud. “The Great Lake Waterspout Outbreak is underway!” they said.
Meanwhile, Tyler Berry, a storm chaser, published two clips of a waterspout over Lake Erie off the coast of Cleveland, Ohio.
The NWS said that an area of low pressure will continue to bring lake effect rain—which occurs when cold air moves over a relatively warm body of water—which “may be locally heavy along the Lake Erie shore including Buffalo tonight through Tuesday night.”
It added that rainfall totals could reach between one and two inches along the lake’s shore through Tuesday evening, though flooding was unlikely.