Sunday, June 12, 2011

In the center of a Whirlwind! Two Dust Devils (and the "greening up" after fire)

Two dust devils form in land regrowing from the fires.  Ribbons of green are showing up on ranch land affected by wildfire this spring.

In the center of a dust devil ash and plant matter flies all around us, click on photo for a closer view!

With the little bit of rain we've been receiving here and there, we've noticed the land is beginning to green up nicely around the region.  Long swaths of burned ranch land are turning into ribbons of green that will only intensify as the summer moves forward.

As you drive through our region, it is fun to spot dust devils--small, well-formed whirlwinds that develop when the surface of the air is much warmer than the air above it.  As the hot air rises, "much of the surrounding air rushes in and intensifies the upward motion," according to Glendale Community College's (AZ) website.  Read more on their excellent webpage here.

We know from experience that a car driving through a dust devil might get a gentle nudge..or perhaps even a strong nudge, but nothing like the force of a tornado.  Dust devils rarely cause any damage.  We'd never actually been that close to one, and never without the protection of a car.  So when we saw several of them yesterday, we decided to try to get close to one crossing the road. 

Well, we misjudged the direction of one dust devil and before we could get out of our seats, it blew through the only open window (drivers seat) of the car.  It felt like someone threw a bucket of sand and burned debris right at us with tremendous velocity!   Afterwards we were covered with bits of plant material and ash as was the entire interior of the car!  When we got home, showers were required as we'd found debris under our clothes!  It was a fun, but dirty adventure...
We only had the drivers window open as the dust devil passed.  This is what the back seat looked like afterwards!

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