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September 11, 2023

Tornado-like waterspout spotted off Ocean City coast

Photos and videos taken from the Ninth Street Bridge and the 36th Street beach show the vortex forming late Sunday afternoon

Weather Atlantic Ocean
Waterspout Ocean City Isidoro Esposito/

The stock photo above shows a waterspout, a tornado-like cyclone that forms above bodies of water. A waterspout formed in Ocean City, New Jersey on Sunday, Aug. 10, 2023.

Sunday's weather produced a captivating sight off the coast of Ocean City, where a tornado-like waterspout formed beyond the shoreline late in the afternoon.

Adam Joseph, a meteorologist at 6ABC, shared a pair of photos that were taken by his friend just before 6 p.m.

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The National Weather Service describes waterspouts as tornadoes that form over water.

Tornadic waterspouts have the same characteristics as land tornadoes and can move from land to water. They're associated with severe thunderstorms and may be accompanied by hail, lightning and high winds. Fair weather waterspouts are considered less dangerous and usually develop upward. It's difficult to tell which kind of waterspout was seen on Sunday. 

"We did have storms in the area, we had a strong trough. It's kind of like an in-between," Ray Martin, a metoeorologist with the Mount Holly Office of the National Weather Service, said Monday. "Certainly we had some support for it in the atmosphere, more than would usually be the case for a waterspout. It's unlikely it would have reached land, but if it had, it would be like a tornado."

If a waterspout does make landfall, it usually dissipates quickly but can be damaging. By the time a waterspout is visible over the ocean, it most likely has hit the peak of its power. People in boats are advised to stay away from waterspouts and travel at a 90-degree angle from their apparent motion. 

Other observers in Ocean City managed to capture images and video of the waterspout on Sunday.

A photo shared on an Ocean City Facebook page shows the waterspout in the distance from the Ninth Street Bridge, and a video posted on the Facebook page of meteorologist NorEasterNick shows the waterspout from the beach at 36th Street.

In late August, another waterspout was observed in North Jersey near Spring Lake in Monmouth County. Several years ago, video showed a waterspout over Fortescue, a community surrounding the Delaware Bay in Cumberland County.