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Dust devils uncovered

Published On: Jul 18 2013 06:00:00 AM CDT

Dust devils resemble little tornados, but happen under clear skies and can pop up all across the northstate. 

Most of them are very small, but some can be violent enough to cause some minor damage.

They are formed when a rising column of hot air begins rotating, either by a gust of wind, or by an interaction between other thermals in the same field. 

This rotation can become pretty strong, which then draws more hot air into the rising column of air, causing it to rise even faster.  That suction drives the dust devil and determines its life span.

Most dust devils form in fields due to the low friction of flat ground and high temperatures in open fields.  They rarely make it out of those fields because if they hit anything – like bushes, trees or buildings – they are usually torn apart.

Every once in a while a strong dust devil will make cause some very minor damage.

Just recently in Alturas a dust devil pulled some roofing off a hamburger stand, and some in the Great Plains and deserts can cause up to EF-0 tornado damage.