LANZAROTE, Canary Islands – Canary Island residents were shocked as they watched a dust devil loom high above them on Saturday.
Mother Nature unleashed her fury on one of Spain’s islands off northwestern Africa, bringing funnel clouds, heavy rain, large hail and violent lightning.
Residents shocked by the weather phenomena
A man pulled his car over and caught the impressive monster on camera.
“A storm blew over with intense thunder, lightning and large hail stones,” resident Charlie Fayers told Storyful. “During the storm, several tornadoes broke out across the island.”
He was not the only one to misidentify the dust devil.
“Very few tornadoes hit the Canaries each year, so obviously, we don’t have much experience of them,” wrote a resident in an online weather forum. “In the forum where I showed this footage, some people don’t believe that it’s a real tornado, but I’m sure that it is.”
What is a dust devil?
Dust devils are not tornadoes, though. They grow from the ground when the sun heats up the surface of one spot more than another, causing air to rise quickly.
Different wind speeds at different altitudes may cause the rising column of air to spin. The rotating column then picks up dirt and debris along the surface.
Dust devils are generally smaller and less intense than a tornado, according to the National Weather Service. They typically span 10 to 300 feet across and stretch 500 to 1000 feet into the air.
And even though they may not be classified as a tornado, dust devils can still do damage.
Funnel cloud spotted on the Canary Islands
On the same day, another resident caught a funnel cloud.
Heating at the surface causes air to rise and form clouds with up and down drafts. Just as with a dust devil, winds increasing with height and varying directions can start the column rotating.
The rotation can eventually become so strongly concentrated that a narrow column of violently rotating air develops. This is called a funnel cloud.
If the funnel cloud stretches far enough down that it reaches the ground, it becomes a tornado.
Spain’s meteorological agency issued yellow weather warnings for the island on Saturday.