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Dust Devil — AKA “the Coalnado” — spotted at McDowell county mine

Randy Walters shot this incredible video of a whirlwind, also known as a “Dust Devil” at a surface mine in Elkhorn, WV Monday afternoon. At first glance, most would think this is a tornado, but apart from tornadoes, Dust Devils usually form in hot, dry weather. While tornadoes descend from the base of thunderstorms, Dust Devils form on the surface and ascend upwards. When the sun heats up one surface faster than another (in this case, the darker-colored coal absorbed more sunlight), rising columns of hot air are created. Occasionally these parcels of hot air will get caught up in any changes of wind direction above the surface, causing the column to rotate. Whirlwinds are much weaker than tornadoes, and usually harmless. Rarely though, they have been known to grow just large enough and “gusty enough” to cause isolated damage to homes and trees. In other words, you should still always keep your distance if you see one!


Katherine Thompson

Chief Meteorologist

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