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Old 12-11-2010, 17:02   #1
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Challenge: Tornado Alert: What Do You Do ?

This summer I anchored up a river near a small town northen chesapeake. The typical summer evening thunderheads were forming I sat thinking I had hooked the bottom well.
Well until I heard air raid sirens.Watching the sky turn Dark and threatening I flipped on the weather. It was full of screaching sounds designed to get my attention and set nerves working. The vhf between the shrieking sounds was frothing words like immediate, bunker and death. From the cockpit I could see a vfw which looked like a bunker and a restauraunt that looked like ants scattering. I was still hoping the sirens were calling the fire department to action for some train derailment. I was very near a north east corridor rail bridge. The sound below from the passing Accella was that of a weather tempest moments from raining terror. A derailment would have meant rest.
The sirens went silent and I worried but not as much. Have you ever heard the neighbors burglar alarm go off with a voice alarm. If you recognize this you'll know what I mean. Leave Immidiataley you have violated an area protected by......
Any way some how this small town has found the same guy who does this with a burglar system and has him advising the whole town of his advice through every possible broadcast means available. It was clear to me my son and I would die if we didn't get to the vfw/bunker. I think I heard him say leave immidiataley or you and your son will die. I say get your life jacket kid were out of here. we make it to the aft deck as the wind kicks up and the sky nods destruction. I think too late and send the boy below to the aft cabin. start the engine and wait.
Next morning I find my anchor fouled around a tree and wonder would that tree have held in a tornado. The only thing I can find to do differnet is not to anchor near a railroad bridge. What do you do in a tornado?
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Old 12-11-2010, 18:23   #2
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That was the lesson to learn - stay away from railroad bridges - AND mobile home parks!!! Then you will be safe...
I was in the northern end of the Sea of Cortez when a local thunderstorm spawned a tornado. It's no good trying to outrun them, and you won't believe how much stuff you can get off the deck with a rigging knife in what is essentially a 15 minute hurricane prep. It passed about a half mile away taking a lot of beach with it. Then saw three - one right after the other - just north of San Carlos, Sonora, about two miles off and moving away. For a California kid who only saw tornadoes on the Weather Channel it was fascinating to just be able to watch them.
On the water they apparently turn into water spouts; there was a fascinating picture taken of one from the outside - and then the inside! - published in Latitude 38 a few years ago. Damage people report from them seems to be from not to a lot, so you never know what will happen...

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Old 12-11-2010, 19:10   #3
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In late May of 2002 I was approching the east end of St Thomas from the north, I think its called Virgen passage when I seen a large squall approching from the west. I turned my radar on and put a reef in the main and rolled up the yankee genoa to leave the staysail up. Checking the radar, the sqalll had a foot print of over three miles by one mile and was advancing toward my course line very fast and I was going to be hit by something very strong. I put a second reef in the main and started the engine and did a 180* away from the squall line. I have the radar on a mount so that I can view it from the cockpit, its also interfaced with theGPS.

As the squall overtook me it spit into two large segments and I turned to go through the gap. Directly in front of me a water spout began to form and reach for the water. I turned and has it began to overtake me I advanced the throttle to 3500 rpm and turned tin a clockwise direction in an attempt to get out of its path. It passed me on the port side about 30 feet away and I could hear the vacuum sound of the water traveling up the spout to vaporize about thirty feet above the surface, It was about ten feet wide. I could look up the spout as it went in front of me and curved back overhead. I throttled back and let it out race me.

It was one of the few times that I realized that I had no control over what was going to happen next and I had way to much time to think about it.
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Old 12-11-2010, 19:22   #4
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Thanks for the stories. Having been slammed around a bit the realization of being confronted with that much force was shh humbling. In a hurricane offshore it is duration of resolve in the condition much greater it is it seems luck and perhaps humility. Enjoy these stories. Thanks
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Old 12-11-2010, 19:29   #5
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Where I live, there are no tornado's. If there ever was one I would probably break out the camera and go chase it.
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Old 23-11-2010, 09:10   #6
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Sabray, I was just thinking about the waterspout we saw down off of Culebrita a couple of years ago. It was far enough away that it didn't affect the boat we were sailing on, but boy it made me take pause...especially since the day was clear and sunny, and beautiful, and yet offshore not very far is this huge waterspout...then my imagination started thinking about how the heck we would handle being out in the ocean at night and dealing with a waterspout...I guess radar would pick it up??? Thoughts?
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Old 23-11-2010, 10:07   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by High Heels View Post
Sabray, I was just thinking about the waterspout we saw down off of Culebrita a couple of years ago. It was far enough away that it didn't affect the boat we were sailing on, but boy it made me take pause...especially since the day was clear and sunny, and beautiful, and yet offshore not very far is this huge waterspout...then my imagination started thinking about how the heck we would handle being out in the ocean at night and dealing with a waterspout...I guess radar would pick it up??? Thoughts?
After my experience posted above, I would never again go toward a squall that I could not see thru. At night I'd never go toward a sguall identified on the radar that had a solid footprint.
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Old 23-11-2010, 10:08   #8
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Thanks John...
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Old 23-11-2010, 10:34   #9
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we sailed into squall after squall at night without any deleterious effects--is difficult to sail at night in gulf and not hit squalls--they disguise selves as haze before their formation --we got big winnds and fast sailing-- but we werent out for a daysail , either-- we wwre en route to a destination...is difficult to miss squalls andstorms when cruising-- ye take what yu get and try to avoid-- but there is really not a truly tested way to avoid.
we were in a tornado watch in mid april in mississippi---just hunker down and pray to sea gods--have your port wine handy--LOL----any port in a storm-- and ride with it..it will go away.
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Old 23-11-2010, 10:47   #10
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Thanks Zeehag.

I have sailed and motored through squalls on Chesapeake Bay and Neuse River...but have never had to deal with a tornado, or water spout. It seems from my very brief week stay in Puerto Rico and Culebra that water spouts are pretty common...they really freak me out.

I don't have port wine aboard yet, but I do have the 'Oh Sh&*' reserve Rum in a container from a bottle I split with another sailor I met last year. We hit it off like we had been sailing buddies forever, and we made a pact to split this remaining bottle of rum, not drinking it, but keeping it for the most dire of circumstances on each of our boats. He was heading offshore. So I guess that is our equivalent to the port
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Old 23-11-2010, 10:53   #11
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aaahhh, but any rum in a storm isnt the same as any port in a storm...i was advised doesnt need to be a good port--just any port--is for storms!!..LOL rum does same thing but doesnt sound as fun..LOL
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Old 23-11-2010, 11:01   #12
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It's on the list
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Old 23-11-2010, 11:32   #13
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Was in the Windward Passage once surrounded by waterspouts. There were thunderclouds all around us and for most of the afternoon waterspouts dropping out of them, sometimes 3-4 visible at once.

We just watched them closely, tracked the courses as well as possible and stayed ready to dodge if we could. Fortunately none of them came any closer than a half mile or so.
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Old 23-11-2010, 11:51   #14
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Holy Cow SkipMac...that is crazy! Was that your first encounter w/ them? How fast do the suckers, on average, usually travel?
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Old 23-11-2010, 12:21   #15
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Yes, that was the first time I had ever seen a water spout. When we spotted the first one we got pretty excited (as in scared the **** out of us). After a couple of hours we were all still alive so the initial panic faded a bit but we still kept a really close watch.

Since none of them came very close it was hard to judge the exact speed but they did not seem to be moving very fast. Certainly faster than a 32' sailboat but I felt like we could have set a perpendicular course and dodged if one started moving our way.

What concerned me more was the possibility of one forming over head. That would have been a bit harder to deal with.

I have heard a lot of boaters say that waterspouts don't pack much punch. Look like a tornado but without the power. Supposedly due to the weight and volume of the water sucked up damping the forces in the spout. Now I wouldn't bet on that but when I lived in south Florida some of the local cowboys (the marine version) would run their Cigarettes through water spouts at high speed for fun. None of them made the front page as a result but still wouldn't try it myself.
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