A storm that blew quickly through Northwest Florida on Thursday night caused at least one “gustnado” in Destin and downed trees and power lines in Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties.
According to the National Weather Service in Mobile, Alabama, which covers Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties, and the National Weather Service in Tallahassee, which covers Walton County, wind gusts between 45 and 53 mph were recorded ahead of the storm’s sinister-looking shelf clouds that descended over the area from the northeast.
“Along those gust fronts, what you get is basically an area of rain-cooled air that comes out from the thunderstorm and can race out ahead of the apparent thunderstorm,” said Ryan Rogers, a meteorologist with the Weather Service in Mobile.
Several people shared videos and photos of what appeared to be a waterspout racing down the middle of Destin Harbor, kicking up debris and spinning over several boats.
Rogers said that wasn’t a waterspout, but confirmed it was a “gustnado,” which is a rotating column of air similar to a waterspout that tends to be on the weak side.
“It’s a bit of an odd name, but it’s similar to a dust devil,” he said. “When air is lifted in front of the gust front, you can have areas of rotation that could come from the sea breeze we have this time of year … and then you can get a small, localized area to form a gustnado.”
Andrew Ishee said he was in his car on U.S. Highway 98 in Destin when he saw what he thought was a funnel cloud come across the highway.
“I heard it before I saw it,” he said in a message to the Destin Log. “It sounded like metal was getting tossed around ... and it was a big funnel of water and it had all kinds of debris in it. Stuff was going everywhere.”
Two people on the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier said they saw two waterspouts, but the Weather Service could not confirm any waterspouts as of Friday morning.
One video shared with the Destin Log shows heavy wind gusts causing damage at HarborWalk Village as people run for cover. A photo shared with The Log shows one of the inflatable playgrounds on Crab Island tangled up underneath the Marler Bridge.
Gordon Paulus, a spokesman for Gulf Power, said 3,400 customers lost power in Okaloosa County, 580 in Santa Rosa County and 120 in Walton County because of the storm. All power had been restored as of 1 p.m. Friday.