SOURCE: Washington Post

DATE: August 3, 2018

SNIP: A tornado? Scary. Wildfire? Horrific. A tornado made out of fire? Just about the most terrifying thing Mother Nature can whip up.

On July 26, the Carr Fire near Redding, Calif., unleashed a vortex with winds so strong it uprooted trees and stripped away their bark. On Thursday, the National Weather Service estimated the fire-induced tempest packed winds in excess of 143 mph. Such wind strength is equivalent to an EF3 tornado, on the 0-to-5 scale for twister intensity.

This is historic in the U.S.,” Craig Clements, director of San Jose State University’s Fire Weather Research Laboratory, told BuzzFeed News. “This might be the strongest fire-induced tornado-like circulation ever recorded.”

While the National Weather Service forecast office in Sacramento described the vortex as a fire whirl, our analysis suggests this was an actual tornado. Fire whirls are much more common. They are the equivalent of dust devils and shed off by large wildfires by the hundreds.

But this vortex’s rapidly-rotating updraft that was embedded in cloud-based rotation bore the hallmarks of a textbook tornado. The funnel produced tornado-like damage, too. It tore trees from the ground, destroyed additional structures and even collapsed/twisted large high-tension electrical towers!