A waterspout tornado that struck the northeastern German port city of Kiel in the early morning hours Tuesday took several people by surprise and injured dozens of others, with some taken to the hospital by helicopter.
The funnel cloud was reportedly spotted around 1:35 a.m. local time, according to the weather service NOAA’s GOES satellite.
“It was very common for Westers to think when a water spout formed in the North Sea. #greatescape #gastlandsee,” meteorologist John Dee wrote on Twitter.
The origins of the waterspout have not been determined.
Kiel, a port city in Germany with a population of roughly 200,000, is located about 115 miles north of Hamburg.
Although waterspouts have been known to occur in waters near Kiel in recent years, Waterspout Eaton, which was released in 2016, is believed to be the first recorded in the city since 1865.
In Kiel, the waterspout touched down on land, injuring up to 54 people, one critically, according to the German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur. A fire department official told the AP that the number of injured may rise.
Several dozen people were taken to Kiel’s Sentrum Hospital after the waterspout hit, including a 3-year-old boy, suffering from concussion and shock, and a woman with a broken leg, according to the Associated Press.
The tornadoes are classified as T-storms and occur when the top-heavy atmosphere of a thunderstorm dissipates over a body of water, leaving air with water droplets in it.
Waterspouts are defined as “wind-driven clouds that may emerge from over land.”
Degraded cirrus clouds that form cumulonimbus formations — which are composed of mostly water vapor — often surface in the gale-force winds of a major storm. These storms produce waterspouts, as well as occasionally downdrafts from tornadoes.
Scientists have studied the phenomenon for decades, including by building a sophisticated sensing and recording system for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s GOES satellites, as well as correlating wind gusts to real-time wind data.
However, many waterspouts are not so direct or unambiguous, which may explain the numerous misidentifications in the past.