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Why Firenados Pose A Threat In Some Parts Of The Country

We have a friend who lives in the Denver area, who we have known for many years. Recently we had occasion to talk about the eight tornadoes which touched down in his neck of the woods last week. He told me that up until recently the idea of a tornado in Colorado was very unusual. But anyone who knows anything about tornadoes knows that they can touchdown anywhere, not just in “tornado alley” or “Dixie alley.”

The National Weather Service actually verified a tornado touchdown in the Rocky Mountains west of Denver last week. That got me to looking at tornadoes in general. In doing more research we stumbled upon a new phenomenon called a “firenado.”

A firenado is what happens when a tornado-like weather phenomenon meets a ground fire or wildfire. The result is roaring spouts of flame shooting 100 or more feet into the sky.

They are relatively obscure because they only flame up for a few minutes. They have recently been captured on video around the world from the Denver area to Brazil. One of the most amazing was captured in the Australian outback.

Climatologists tell us that a wildfire can create its own weather conditions which are actually similar to tornadoes. Tornadoes are formed when two different air conditions meet and one rapidly moves towards the other. Typically it’s warm moist air colliding with cold dry air in the atmosphere creating a vortex. The intense heat of a wildfire or brushfire, we are told, can create that differential all by itself. “The flames force air to shift or rotate among competing air temperatures and speeds — and eventually it tilts the rotating air.”

The vortex absorbs combustible gases released by the fire which meet oxygen-rich air in the center of the vortex and ignite. That heat fuels the vortex even further producing an inferno similar to a jet engine.

Firenadoes can be very destructive. They can reignite ashes and spread burning debris for miles. They have been known as other names such as firestorms, dust Devils, fire whirls and others.

Most people don’t have to worry about firenadoes because they live in parts of the country that are not susceptible to brushfires or wildfires-a key ingredient for this phenomena. You need drought like conditions that exist now in the western and southwestern U.S.

“Scientists estimate fire whirls burn fuel three to seven times faster than an open flame.”

Of all weather related disasters tornadoes are among the most destructive both in terms of property damage and lives lost. For any weather-related disaster emergency preparedness and disaster planning are an essential for survival.

But since tornadoes can occur anywhere with wind speeds as high as 300 miles an hour-most are less than 100 miles an hour-citizens need to be aware and do some disaster planning.

Here are some tips on what you can do for tornado emergency preparedness.

  1. All family members should know where to go when a tornado approaches. The best place is in the basement of a home. If one is not available put as many walls as possible between you and the outside and get as low as possible.
  2. If you live in a mobile home your tornado plan should take you to a preselected permanent structure. Don’t attempt to drive anywhere. Believe it or not, you’re safer lying in a ditch or depression than driving or staying in a mobile home.
  3. Time is of the essence. Tornadoes strike quickly with astonishing force. Move quickly. That’s why having a plan and knowing what to do is essential in an emergency.
  4. Most accidents in a tornado are from head injuries so it’s not a bad idea to have a helmet for all members of your family.
  5. Tornadoes can be terribly destructive and knockout normal support services. It is incumbent on all families to have first aid and food and water supplies for a critical 72 hour period after a disaster. This 72 Hour Kit or “Go Bag” has food, water and first aid supplies for 2 for those critical 72 hours after a disaster.
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