MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -Another rare phenomenon has shown up in 2020 and that is a firenado or also known as a fire whirl.
This rare event happens when the intense heat rises and turbulent wind conditions combine and form swirling pockets of air. These pockets of swirling wind can tighten into a twister-like structure that can pull in smoke, fire and burning debris which can cause rotation above a blaze. The difference between a normal tornado and a firenado, is that winds combine with smoke plums.
Fire whirls are aren’t as strong as a tornado and they aren’t as large in diameter or scale in both height and in width. They spin for a while, rotate and then dissipate quickly. So they don’t really indicate any more damage until their size gets really, really large,” Clements said.
Fire tornadoes can become very large and can be deadly. In 2018, a deadly firenado killed 8 people and destroyed over 1,000 homes in Northern California. The National Weather Service surveyed the damage on that firenado, and it was equivalent to an EF-3 tornado with winds in excess of 143 mph!