Rare Water Tornado Photographed in Humboldt County Amidst Severe Weather

Photo by Micah Crumbaugh

Amidst the severe winter storms that have been hitting Northern California recently, a strange occurrence was captured on camera in Humboldt County. On Monday afternoon, resident Micah Crumbaugh spotted a “waterspout” or “water tornado” forming over the rocks in Shelter Cove on the Lost Coast.

The phenomenon is a tornado that forms over water or moves from land to water, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It often looks similar to a land tornado and is frequently accompanied by thunderstorms, high winds, hail, and dangerous lightning.

Crumbaugh told SFGATE that he remembers seeing a waterspout during his childhood in Lake Michigan, where he grew up. Although these types of water tornadoes are more common on the Great Lakes, the recent winter storms have caused the National Weather Service to issue warnings about them as far south as Santa Barbara.

The strange sight of the Shelter Cove waterspout was photographed by Crumbaugh during his walk.

“It was really cool watching it make its way down to the water and seeing the water rise up to meet it,” said Crumbaugh “Where I was standing, it was sunny and warm. It was a really cool sight to see, especially right after snow down here in Shelter Cove.”

Photo by Micah Crumbaugh

The recent storms have caused significant damage to Humboldt County, with many roads closed due to downed power lines and trees. Almost 9,000 residents were left without power in the region.

The Shelter Cove waterspout sighting, though an unusual phenomenon, is just one of the many effects of the extreme weather patterns experienced in California.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


  1. Pretty cool. I have always wanted to see one. The more different types of clouds you see at the moment can predict them. 30 years ago as I was leaving Ventura Marina to drive 30 miles to my home I counted 7 different kinds of clouds over Santa Cruz Island and told my wife and some friends at the Marina that water spouts were likely coming. I did not believe myself enough to stay and get to see the many spouts that everyone along the coast witnessed.

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