This Coalnado Is About as 2019 as It Gets

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Gif: Meredith Garofalo (Twitter)

If last year was the year of firenado, it’s only fitting that this is the year of the coalnado.

Video surfaced on Tuesday of a huge vortex of coal bits being sucked into the sky in Elkhorn, West Virginia, in what is surely the second swirl of the apocalypse. What I’m saying is we’re a locustnado and bloodnado away from the end times, my friends.


It’s tempting to name this an act of wrathful Old Testament-type god, but there’s a more likely scientific explanation for the more empirically-minded. The vortex of nightmares in the video may look like a tornado, but it actually shares more in common with dust devils.

Our first hint is the partially cloudy skies. Tornadoes form during supercell thunderstorms through a series of complex processes scientists are actually still working to understand. Dust devils—or in this case, a coal devil—form when the ground gets superheated compared to the air above it. That sends the hot air closest to the ground rising while cold air sinks, causing the rising warm air to turn and become a whirling devil.

With so much coal lying around absorbing the sun’s rays, it’s a safe bet that the ground was pretty toasty. And that’s likely what set the towering twister of nightmares in motion, sucking up bits of coal ash and dust with the rotating updraft. While the various types of devils can’t crank up to the strength of a tornado, their winds can still reach 60 mph, a speed at which I imagine taking a coal chunk to the head would be pretty dangerous.

The coalnado comes on the same week the Trump administration announced it was killing a coal power plant waste regulation as part of its continuing misguided attempts to bring coal back. The administration’s deregulatory frenzy has also included willfully neglecting criminal enforcement for polluters and promoting something called “freedom gas.” All these factors will speed the climate crisis along. No word on when then bloodnadoes will start, though.