|Waterspouts - Layton, FL - May 22nd, 2006
LOWER MATECUMBE - LAYTON - LONG KEY - MARATHON
Martin Kucera & FloridaLightning.com
|On some days the things just come together and you know that you can expect certain
things happen. It was the case of today where you could literally feel it in the air. High
humidity, light winds and plenty of other small scale mechanics you could play with.
My interest in this particular chase day started with a large thunderstorm complex near
Dry Tortugas but those quickly died during the early afternoon as did some small
storms along the cloud line just north of the Lower Keys.
Later in the afternoon (about 4 pm) I noticed a rather small thunderstorm forming over
the south central part of Florida mainland - in the area of one of my favorite overlooks in
the Everglades N.P. This storm also died quickly but was showing considerably higher
returns on the radar. Later the outflow from this storm began propagating in a
south-west direction. This triggered showers and new updrafts along the way of the
outflow boundary. At the same time a well developed cloud line was present along the
north side of the Upper and Middle Keys. The updrafts struggled in the area of
Islamorada so after the initial look in the sky I decided to head south where the towers
looked much better. This decision paid off well. Only a couple minutes into my taking
photographs a faint waterspout developed very close to one of the rain shafts that
littered the horizon.
|Florida Bay at 5 pm - there are waterspouts
forming at this time already along the
rainless part of a base of the storm.
|A first waterspout that went unreported. It
is shortly after 5pm. Unfortunately I did not
have a cell phone on me to report it.
|One would assume the spout was going to dissipate quite quickly but this one lasted
for more than ten minutes trying to battle it out with the cool rain shaft. As was going
to be the case for the rest of the afternoon a new waterspout developed to the
south-west of the previous one. I drove south to the area of Layton, FL - there are not
those annoying power lines in the view. The visibility was fine and we were about
three hours away from sunset. What a great setup I thought. During the next hour or
so I witnessed about six waterspouts. Surprisingly all of them on the north side of the
islands. Upon checking the local storms reports from the NWS in Key West I realized
pretty much all of the reports noted the waterspouts occurring on the south side of the
islands. I suppose at the time I was observing these waterspouts the leading edge of the
boundary was way past me to the south-west producing new vigorous updrafts
somewhere in the area of Marathon. I remember once looking way past the horizon to
the south-west and the cloud line was in fact stretching all the way
across the horizon - as far as you could possible see.
|Two waterspouts form at the same time just
off shore. This was near Fiesta Key in the
Upper Keys. Bridges are great vantage
points in the Keys but you can not stop to
photograph or shoot video, of course.
|A closer look at one of the waterspouts as
seen from Layton, FL. The spout
development propagated slowly to
south-west which would be to the left of the
waterspout in the picture.
|The overall view of Florida Bay at 6 pm as
seen from Layton, FL. The rain kept
overtaking the cloud line so I had to start
moving south-west along the island chain
again. There was no lightning with these
showers until later.
|Florida Keys Waterspouts.
|Probably the most interesting moment of
the afternoon. The waterspouts are trying to
survive the rain-cooled air coming in from
the rain shaft to the right of the picture.
|I wish a had a boat. That would provide for
some extra close photo opportunities.
|When dissipating waterspouts are pretty much being pushed away from the rain
shaft and take on some interesting shapes. Sometimes the parent cloud rains out
and the waterspout goes on but inmost cases the cool air undercuts the
waterspout thus ending it's fragile life cycle.
|There are some pictures I left out that would show some more waterspouts across
the horizon. Sometimes you just put the camera away and just enjoy the show.
There were also many funnel clouds along the line trying to make it but it was
getting dark and heating of the day was lost. These fishermen had a lot of fun -
you could hear them all the way to the shore. I watched them hooking some big
fish till dark. Don't know if they ever even looked up in the sky. The storm ahead
intensified and later started gusting out. At this time - about 7 pm - there were
still waterspouts forming and being reported further south in Marathon, FL.
I just enjoyed watching the shelf roll by....
|Looking south-west at the gust front along the Long Key bridge (originally called
Long Key Viaduct) . This bridge is one of the most neglected landmarks in the
Keys since most of the people just go over it down to Key West never seeing the
beauty of it. Picture of this bridge like the one above-right with a train steaming
across was a signature photograph in Henry Flagler's efforts to promote and
build the railroad between Miami and Key West. It was also a logo of his company
that was building the railroad (FEC). He succeeded despite the hardship caused by
clouds of mosquitoes, harsh tropical weather and other problems. On Labor Day
weekend of 1935 this area was struck by the most intense hurricane to ever strike
the United States with winds over 200 mph.
Hundreds of Great War veterans lost their lives in the Upper Keys trying to build
the Overseas Highway. Following this disaster the railroad was pretty much
abandoned and the highway is being used today.
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