Six Injured in Henry Co. Dust Devil Saturday

Henry County, VA - Six people were injured Saturday after a sudden and localized dust devil lifted several canopies and dropped them into a crowd of people, according to the National Weather Service.

One person had to be taken to the hospital, but all of the injuries were minor, according to the National Weather Service.

The dust devil was reported one mile WSW of Bassett around 4 p.m.

Will Perry, a forecaster with the National Weather Service says winds were estimated at 40 mph.

While 40 mph winds are usually not strong enough to produce significant damage, tents and canopies are more vulnerable to sudden and stronger wind gusts, acting as a sail in a way. Any poles that are used to help set up the outdoor tents, can then become a danger.

Perry said Saturday overall was quiet with sunshine and generally light winds. In the ABC 13 Weather Center, no strong wind gusts were recorded, either.

Dust devils can form when strong daytime heating from full sunshine warm the ground quickly. The warm air travels upward into the sky normally, but when combined with any small eddy, or "swirl" in the wind, the heating can maintain the upward motion enough for a dust devil.

Dust devils are very small and isolated events, so it is likely that the 40 mph wind gust that lifted the canopy was not officially detected by computer observations. In fact, the official observations from the Martinsville / Blue Ridge Airport only show calm winds up to only up to 3 mph from the NW near the time of the event.