EXPLAINER: How this epic dust devil formed in Salem Monday

Amy Vizcarra submitted video of an incredible dust devil at Hidden Valley Country Club Monday

SALEM, Va. – You’ve likely seen brief, small dust devils on the playground, at a ball field, etc. Chances are, however, you haven’t seen one quite this strong and big before.

Amy Vizcarra sent us the video you see above of an insane dust devil at Hidden Valley Country Club in Salem Monday.

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At first, it was mistaken for a tornado. (You can understand why.) Tornadoes form at the base of a severe and rotating thunderstorm. You can see in this video that there’s no storm present.

Dust devils form when you first have air warming the surface. Warm air rises and cools, forming a very small area of low pressure. Surrounding air rushes toward the center of low pressure to essentially fill the void.

It then spins counter-clockwise, forming a dust devil. These sustain themselves until cooler air intrudes at the surface or until it runs into something like a fence, tree, hill, etc.

I’ve explained this picture-in-picture below.

About the Author:

Meteorologist Chris Michaels is an American Meteorological Society (AMS) Certified Broadcaster, forecasting weather conditions in southwest Virginia on WSLS 10 News from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. weekdays on Virginia Today.