Can dust devils cause damage?

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by Meteorologist Royal Norman

Bio | Email | Follow: @RoyalNorman

azfamily.com

Posted on May 2, 2011 at 4:11 PM

Updated Monday, May 2 at 9:19 PM

PHOENIX – The short answer is yes, but usually if there is damage, it’s not very serious. 

On Earth, most dust devils are very small and weak, often less than three feet in diameter with maximum winds averaging about 45 miles per hour and they often dissipate less than a minute after forming.

On rare occasions, a dust devil can grow very large and intense, sometimes reaching a diameter of up to 300 feet with winds in excess of 60 mph and can last for upwards of 20 minutes before dissipating.

Dust devils typically do not cause injuries, but rare, severe dust devils have caused damage and even deaths in the past. One such dust devil struck the Coconino County Fairgrounds in Flagstaff, Arizona on September 14, 2000.

Extensive damage occurred to several temporary tents, stands and booths, as well as some permanent fairgrounds structures. In addition, several injuries were reported but there were no fatalities.

Based on the degree of damage left behind, it is estimated that the dust devil produced winds as high as 75 mph, which is equivalent to an EF0 tornado.

On May 19, 2003, a dust devil lifted the roof off of a two-story building in Lebanon, Maine causing it to collapse and kill a man inside. 

On June 18, 2008, a dust devil collapsed a shed near Casper, Wyoming killing a woman. In 2010 three children in an inflatable jump house were picked up by a dust devil and were carried over three houses and a 10-foot fence in east El Paso, Texas.
 





 

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