‘Tornado of Nightmares’: Woman Captures Fire Whirl in Missouri

A beautiful and scary natural phenomenon, firenado, was captured by a lucky driver from Missouri.

Ms. Copelin was so amazed by what she saw that she posted the image on Instagram so she could share it with followers. Photo: Janae Copelin/Flickr

Ms. Copelin was so amazed by what she saw that she posted the image on Instagram so she could share it with followers. Photo: Janae Copelin/Flickr

The natural phenomenon, sometimes dubbed as a “fire devil”, was caught on camera in this incredible image by a curious driver from Missouri.

Janae Copelin, who goes by the Instagram user name nicejalapeno, captured the image of the colorful inferno and thick clouds of grey smoke about a mile north of 190 Highway on Saturday, May 3rd.The lucky photographer said she was heading out for a day in St. Joseph, Mo., with her daughter and a friend when she saw the flames.

“Had such a smashing weekend, though this had to be a coolest/scariest thing I’ve ever seen,” she wrote. “A rancher blazing off his margin and as we stopped so we could take a design a breeze churned adult this glow twister. #nofilter #firestorm #firetwister”

In an email to KMBC 9 News, she said: “Thanks to my love of Instagram I chose to drive by and as I stopped to take a picture the wind whipped up the fire into this funnel. The sound and heat were intense and a bit scary not knowing if it would stay put, but it only lasted a couple minutes.”

While it’s difficul to say whether the image hasn’t been doctored, The Weather Channel re-posted it on its Facebook page and warned that “with the record heat broiling the plains this week, fire whirls will not be out of the question.”

Shawn Reynolds of the Weather Channel also posted a similar photo Tuesday afternoon, which was sent to the Weather Channel on Friday.

The person who shared it wrote that they spotted it after stopping to take a picture of a farmer burning his field. At that point, “the wind whipped up this twister,” the person wrote.

However, Chillicothe Fire Chief Darrell Wright told KCTV5 News that he cannot verify the picture.

“We have searched our records and cannot match that road service type with any address we responded to,” Wright said.

KCTV5 News chief meteorologist Chris Suchan said a thunderstorm is not necessary to develop a firenado.

Interesting, but this, from the first sight, rare phenomenon, is actually, “more common than you think,” said Jon Erdman of the Weather Channel in a handy post.

As Erdman explained, “fire whirls turn and burn. They are rapidly spinning vortices that form when air superheated by an intense wildfire rises rapidly, consolidating low-level spin from winds converging into the fire like a spinning ice skater, pulling its arms inward.”

Firenados are typically fairly narrow and can extend hundreds of feet into the air. Wind speeds in a firenado can reach low-end tornado wind speeds of an EF-0 at 65 mph plus. The temperature inside the core of a fire tornado can reach up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to potentially reignite ashes sucked up from the ground.

Share this article

We welcome comments that advance the story directly or with relevant tangential information. We try to block comments that use offensive language, all capital letters or appear to be spam, and we review comments frequently to ensure they meet our standards. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Coinspeaker Ltd.