Photo of Hurricane Lili Waterspouts
Netlore Archive: Emailed photo purportedly shows three waterspouts threatening a supply vessel at sea as Hurrican Lili approaches, October 2002
Description: Email hoax
Circulating since: Oct. 2002
Email example contributed by J. Chacko, 4 October 2002:
Sent: Wednesday, October 02, 2002 6:30 PM
This was sent to me by a friend at Seacor, taken earlier this morning.
Comments: Sorry, severe weather fans, this photo has been doctored. The eerie phenomenon depicted above did not really occur. I confirmed this with Bill Read, Meteorologist-in-Charge at the Houston/Galveston office of the National Weather Service, who says the image is "mostly fake."
Though it began circulating via email in early October 2002 just before Hurricane Lili bore down on the Louisiana coastline, in reality the image has no connection with that storm. The original, undoctored photo -- which featured only one massive waterspout looming in the distance -- was snapped in June 2001 by a crew member of the Edison Chouest Offshore supply boat "C-Rambler" in the Gulf of Mexico. The picture (or an almost identical shot from the same roll of film) was first published in the Fall 2001 issue of "Supply Lines," a corporate newsletter.
While it's not unheard of to spot multiple waterspouts or tornadoes in the same general vicinity, another meteorologist explained to me, the supposed "Hurricane Lili" photo struck some scientists as suspicious from the outset because it would be quite out of the ordinary to see three waterspouts this large emerging this close together under even the most extreme weather conditions. By the time I contacted them, National Weather Service employees had already determined the image was a hoax and were pleased to have an opportunity to debunk it.
Sources and further reading:
Fall 2001 edition of Edison Chouest Offshore newsletter in which the original photo appeared
What Is a Waterspout?
From the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
CNN news update, 5 Oct 2002
Last updated: 10/08/02