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Researchers log 34 waterspouts in 'outbreak' over Lake Huron

The International Centre for Waterspout Research says waterspouts aren't unusual – but there are a few reasons why people are seeing more right now.

Warm water and cool temperatures create the right conditions for waterspouts

Photographer Jason O'Young shared this photo on Twitter Tuesday of a waterspout spotted over Lake Huron, near Port Albert, ON. (Jason O'Young/Twitter)

There's been an "outbreak" of waterspouts appearing over the waters of Lake Huron, according to a research group that has logged 34 watery twisters in the past three days. 

Wade Szilagyi, director of the International Centre for Waterspout Research, said it isn't terribly unusual – but there are a few reasons why people are seeing more waterspouts than in the past. 

"Meteorologically it's because this past July was one of the hottest Julys on record," he explained. "As a result, the water was quite warm as well, and when you get the cool air starting to move over that really warm water in the months of August and September, then you get unstable water conditions forming, and this is perfect for water spouts to form." 

The other reason, he explained, is because of access to technology.

"Now that everyone has a cell phone, they can take photos, social media, it gets up there in near real time, and we're now able to obtain a lot more waterspout reports than we have in the past." 

The allure of a waterspout might be that it's an opportunity to see a tornado from a safe distance. But occasionally they do come inland, said Szilagyi. 

"That's the time to avoid them. Move at right angles to them, stay away from a tree along the beach and also objects along the shore as well because the waterspout will … die off but in the meantime it will pick up those objects and spin them around, and you could get hit." 

Szilagyi said waterspouts always travel in a straight line, they don't curve or take sharp turns, so that's why it's important to move away from it at right angles. 

"Never try to outrun it, because it'll probably catch up to you." 

Szilagyi said the outbreak is expected to continue at the southern end of Lake Huron, in the Goderich area, Wednesday morning. As temperatures rise, he said the outbreak will come to an end.

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