BLACK RIVER-Jay Raymond and wife Cheryl Blakeley thought it was all over when they saw a black cloud begin to rotate right over their heads at their Black River home on the shores of Lake Huron.
"It looked sinister," Raymond said Tuesday, recalling what he thought was a tornado at around 6 p.m. the night before.
"It formed a funnel and started to come down," he said.
For a few moments he thought about securing his porch furniture. Instead, he began snapping images with his cellphone and a video camera. Then he grabbed a digital camera as the funnel reached down to the surface of the lake and began sucking up water.
"I was glad everything was moving in the right direction - away," he said.
A few moments later, the tornado dissipated. Sun broke out and a rainbow stretched itself across the sky, he said.
Although the Alcona County Sheriff's Office received no reports of a tornado, Raymond said his neighbors also observed the unusual weather event.
At the National Weather Service in Gaylord, meteorologist Jeffrey Zoltowski said he hadn't heard of tornadoes on the Sunrise Side of the state. There had been a report of a water spout in the Sleeping Bear Dunes area at 6:30 p.m. Monday.
"It was definitely associated with a thunder storm," Zoltowski said.
Then he saw Raymond's images.
"That's pretty obviously a water spout, nice picture, too," Zoltowski said, happy to hear that Raymond had also taken a video of the event.
"We get two different types of water spouts-one is a tornado over water and it can be very strong and intense when it comes back onto land," Zoltowski said. "But more commonly we get water spouts."
They form when the lake is warm and the air is cold, usually in late summer or fall, he said.
"Yesterday wasn't a good set up for tornadoes," Zoltowski said. "But the incoming air was cool enough that we were able to spin up a couple water spouts."
The funnels usually travel at a speed of about 20 miles per hour and can occur as multiples or singles, he said. They can rotate at speeds between 65 and 100 mph, but since they occur on water, damage is usually minimal.
"But you wouldn't want to sail your boat into them," Zoltowski said.
Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.