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‘Snowball from heaven’: Rare water tornado hits Humboldt County

A weather phenomenon known as a waterspout occurred in Humboldt County on Monday. | Courtesy Micah Crumbaugh

Residents of Humboldt County were shocked to see a tornado reaching down into the ocean following a flurry of snowstorms on Monday afternoon. 

The tornado—technically a waterspout, since it occurred over the ocean—formed around noon just off the coast of a small town called Shelter Cove, which is the only town in the largely uninhabited “Lost Coast” region, with a population of just 867 people. 

Some residents of the small coastal community have been unable to leave town for over a week due to an onslaught of snowstorms that blocked the only road over the coastal mountains. At least one saw the unusual weather phenomenon as a sign of hope in otherwise challenging times. 

“I feel like it was a blessing from God for me to see that,” Shelter Cove resident Mike Bates told The Standard. “It really looked like a snowball from heaven.”

Courtesy Mike Bates

Due to the dangerous road conditions from winter storms, Bates said he has been stuck living in his car. Unable to drive to his house at the top of the hill, he spends much of his time at the local beach. In spite of that, he was in good spirits.

“There’s a lot of magical moments out there that we miss by not really just paying attention,” Bates said. “I’m turning some mushy lemons into some beautiful red apples.” 

David Sjostedt can be reached at