Beachgoers were shocked on Sunday afternoon after a mini tornado passed through the La Martina beach club on Coco Beach, Playa Del Carmen. Three individuals were left with minor injuries, as a result of the wind picking up pieces of beach furniture and throwing them back onto the sand.
Both city workers who were clearing sargassum from the beach and passengers on a nearby boat managed to film the event on their phones, which clearly displayed beach items being tossed around by the wind. The three individuals injured only suffered minor cuts to their back and face, caused by the debris.
This ‘mini tornado’ is also known as a waterspout, defined as a meteorological occurrence whereby a tornado moves from water to land, usually in the presence of severe thunderstorms and strong winds. They can also occur alongside hail and lightning, emphasising the danger of this weather phenomenon.
When waterspouts occur in the United States, the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning to those close by, as they are known to cause significant damage and injuries to people. In this case, the mini tornado did not pose a huge threat to beachgoers as it passed by rapidly.
Lifeguards who were present on the scene helped to provide first aid to those in need. First responders and civil protection personnel were also called to ensure that no one was seriously injured during the incident.
Eyewitnesses reported a strong wind forming over the sea at around 2.40 p.m, which quickly moved towards the sand where people were relaxing. It then picked up several objects in its path, including beach umbrellas, deckchairs and other beach paraphernalia.
This is not the first time a mini tornado has occurred in Quintana Roo: in 2019, a waterspout was spotted over the shores of Cancun and in 2020, waterspouts were spotted just outside of Quintana Roo in Yucatan. The latter event caused chaos on social media, with several beachgoers posting about the mini tornado as it was something they had never seen before.
These events did not cause significant damage to property or severe injuries to beachgoers. However, authorities have since discussed the importance of educating both locals and tourists on keeping safe when in the presence of a mini tornado.
Experts believe that mini tornados, such as the one that occurred in Playa del Carmen, occur at a much higher frequency during Quintana Roo’s hurricane season: 90% of all hurricanes happen in the Mexican-Caribbean between the months of August to October. Mid-august is typically the most frequent time for Atlantic hurricanes to occur, as the humid weather leads to greater rainfall, increasing the chances of such a powerful tropical storm.
However, meteorologists found that occasional thunderstorms occurred as early as July this year, due to a significant increase in temperature. Temperatures soared well above 40 degrees Celsius (or 104 degrees Fahrenheit), and the hottest temperatures were recorded in the tourist hotspots of Tulum, Cancun and Isla Mujeres.
As the month of September gets closer, meteorological experts will continue to monitor any harsh weather systems in Quintana Roo, especially in tourist-frequented areas such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
Authorities will aim to warn tourists and locals about any potential storms ahead of time, to ensure the safety of the public and important infrastructure. Whilst ‘waterspouts’ do not frequently occur in the state of Quintana Roo, tourists should still be aware of the potential risks associated with the mini tornados, and follow any orders given by authorities to ensure the safety of everyone.
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