Real "Dust" Events

Susan Berliner is the author of the supernatural thrillers DUST, Peachwood Lake, The Disappearance, Corsonia, After the Bubbles and Soldier Girl, and two short story collections: The Sea Crystal and Other Weird Tales and George's Mother and Other Weird Stories.

The last event below inspired "DUST." When I found the little article online, I saved it, and since it happened in Maine, expected Stephen King to use it for a future novel. He didn't - and so, several years later, I did. If you learn of a new "Dust Event," please contact me at  If I can verify the incident, I will post it here and credit you.

March 16, 2021

(Dust devils also form in Mars, as mentioned in the beginning pages of DUST.)

MARS: The rover, Perseverance, spotted a dust devil. See it in the right background, behind the rover's robotic arm, crossing Jezero Crater.

Click here for the video.

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April 9, 2019:

FAIRFIELD, CA - A powerful dust devil ripped off part of the roof of a building in Alan Witt Park, tossing large chunks of debris into a nearby skating area. However, the strong wind didn't bother one man, who stood in the middle of the mini-tornado, twirling along with it.  According to city officials, neither the man nor anyone else in the park, was injured.

Click here for the video.

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January 2, 2019:

MANILLA, New South Wales, AUSTRALIA - While preparing for a cross-country flight with a group of paragliding pilots, one paraglider encountered a dust devil that formed across the launch site. The dust devil caught the paraglider and flung him into the air while the man's wife filmed the action. Fortunately, the man wasn't hurt and was able to continue the five-hour flight.

Click here for the news article and video.

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May 5, 2018: (courtesy of Jerry Rhoades)

VULCAN, Alberta, CAN - A large dust devil attacked spectators at a kids' softball game on a hot and sunny Saturday, tossing folding chairs and bags high into the air. The parent of one of the players recorded the whirlwind's action.

Click here for the news article and video.

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April 16, 2016: (courtesy of Lisanne Harrington)

LYNCHBURG, VA - A giant dust devil disrupted a Lynchburg College girls' softball game on a dry, warm Saturday afternoon, landing on the field eariy in the second game of a doubleheader. As players and fans watched, the huge whirlwind spun around the infield for about thirty seconds.

Cameramen who were taping the game for the school's sports network, recorded the event.

Click here for the news article and video.

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May 3, 2015:

PALM SPRINGS, CA - A dust devil interrupted a downtown vintage market about 2 pm on a sunny Sunday afternoon, damaging cars and vendors' merchandise. No injuries were reported. A witness said the whirlwind event lasted about two minutes.

Click here for the TV news report and photos.

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December 31, 2014: (courtesy of Dave Berliner)

PASADENA, CA - A dust devil played havoc with the tented amusement area outside the Rose Bowl stadium the day before the football game, tossing an inflated bounce house and pop-up vendor tents high into the air. Four people were slightly injured.

Click here for the story and video.

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August 10, 2014: (courtesy of Meredith Schneeloch)

(This dust devil forms in a baseball field, much like the whirlwind in my novel, DUST)

BROOKLYN, NY - A sudden dust devil surprised baseball players and sunbathers in McCarren Park in Greenpoint on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Photos and a video show people gawking at the freak weather phenomenon, which landed harmlessly on the unoccupied playing field.

Click here for the most comprehensive article and photos--ironically from Great Britain!)

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July 4, 2014

SPARKS, NV - During a Fourth of July carnival, an inflatable slide was tossed 300 feet into the air. Fortunately, no children were on the large toy when it went airborne. However, two people were hospitalized after being hit by debris. In addition, a lamp post was torn apart by the dust devil's winds, which were estimated at 60- to 70 miles per hour.

According to authorities, the slide had been properly tethered to the ground.

Check here for the article and photos.

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May 12, 2014:

SOUTH GLENS FALLS, NY - A dust devil tossed a bounce house in the air, injuring three children, two of them seriously. The sudden gust lifted the inflated structure, with two boys (5- and 6-years-old) still inside, 15 feet from the ground. One boy fell on a parked car and the the other landed on asphalt. A 10-year-old girl, who fell out just as the bounce house was being lifted, suffered minor injuries.

According to a witness, "The wind  picked the structure up and spun it around as if it were a small tornado." The incident occurred on a warm day with calm wind conditions.

Click here for the news story and photo.

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March 14, 2014: (courtesy of Jerry Witt)

ADAMS COUNTY, CO - A huge dust devil tossed tumbleweeds into a fire near the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge, creating an out of control inferno that endangered the firefighters. Although the dust devil fire, part of a prescribed 150-acre burn, scorched an extra acre of land, it didn't harm any people or damage any property.

The event was videotaped by Thomas Rogers, one of the firefighters from South Metro Fire & Rescue. "I'm a fire buff as well as a weather buff and here I had a weather event and a fire event coming together and it was just really amazing to watch," Rogers said. "There's nothing you can do except get out of the way and wait for it to calm down."

Click here to see the video.

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May 23, 2013:

LOS ALAMOS, NM - An unbelievably strong dust devil ripped the roof off the Barranca Mesa Elementary School.One teacher said things started blowing off her walls and she first thought it might have been an earthquake. But when the doors blew wide open, a hallway turned into a huge wind tunnel of dirt.

In the front parking lot, the dust devil shattered the rear windows of about six cars. Across the street, a huge pine tree was completely uprooted.

"It looked like the Wizard of Oz," the teacher said.

Fortunately, no one was injured.

Click here for the TV news report.

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February 8, 2013:

(There must be some connection between dust devils and auto shops! See last entry.)

ST. GEORGE, UT - A powerful dust devil swept through Prestige Auto Repair, picking up tires and tools and tossing them around the shop before knocking down a 600 pound, 16-by-12-foot wall. It took five men to lift the wall and stand it up until it can be reattached.

Owner Shannon Reynolds said the entire dust devil incident lasted about ten seconds. "It was like a possessed twister," he explained.

Click here for the news story.

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August 20, 2012 (courtesy of Dana Stacy):

What's the color of a dust devil that forms in a dry, orange field? Check out this fascinating video.

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July 17, 2012:

HAZLET, NJ - At lunchtime, a dust devil tossed towels, tee shirts--and a heavy lounge chair--fifteen to twenty feet into the air at the Hazlet Swim Club. Then, ten minutes later, a whirlpool hit the pool and parents grabbed their children out of the water. After the whirlpool traveled across the water, it rose back into the air, again sending personal belongings flying high.

"It looked as if there was an invisible man throwing items all over as there was no other wind or dark clouds," said one club member.

Click here to read the article.

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May 16, 2011 (courtesy of Linda Griffin):

TUCSON, AZ - A dust devil blew through a fifth-grade graduation party in a Tucson park, lifting a bouncy castle into the air. Parents quickly removed the children from the inflatable house, but six children were slightly injured from flying debris.

This is the third time this year a bouncy castle has gone airborne in Tucson, Arizona. The other incidents happened on April 2 (see article below) and on February 19. The state has no laws or equipment requirements for inflatable houses.

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TUCSON, AZ - A dust devil tossed a bounce house with two children inside about 15 feet into the air, blowing it across three lanes of traffic before flinging it to the ground in the median of a busy highway. The boy and girl who had been jumping in the inflated castle were taken to a hospital with serious, but not life-threatening injuries. The bounce house, an attraction at a children's festival, had been tethered to the ground with several large stakes.

It's second time this year an inflated castle has been lifted off the ground in Arizona. On February 19, two young girls were blown over a fence and onto a roof. Both girls were injured, but have since recovered.

Here is a link to the story.

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April 21, 2010:

MAKAHA, HI - A pair of dust devils combined forces at an elementary school playground, lifting 14 fourth-graders several feet in the air and slamming some of them into the surrounding fence. Several other children were hit by tennis rackets because they were playing tennis when the dust devils appeared. Some of the students were treated for cuts and minor injuries, but none were taken to the hospital.

The school principal said the situation could have been much worse because ten minutes later 300 students would have been outside for recess.

Here is a link to the article.

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August 5, 2009 (ScienceDaily article, courtesy of Rie Sheridan Rose):

MARS - NASA scientists have used a combination of photographs, taken seconds apart, to create a colorful picture of a Mars dust devil. The camera on Mars Exploration Rover Spirit took photos using three filters to track the whirlwind's movements. The colors appear to be purple, green, and yellow.

Spirit has recorded more than 650 dust devils since 2004.

Click here for the link to the article and the accompanying photo.

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April 18, 2009:

EAST FISHKILL, New York - A strong wind gust at the Beekman Country Club lifted a golf cart and knocked it over, mildly injuring two golfers. Witnesses saw a funnel cloud, which the National Weather Service said was probably a "dust devil." According to a meteorologist, these little wind formations can have "enough velocity to move objects."

A Dutchess County police official called the incident "a weird little wind event."

Click here for the article.

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May 19, 2003:

LEBANON, Maine - A sudden windstorm lifted a roof off an auto body shop, collapsing most of the two-story building and killing the owner.

A meteorologist at the National Weather Service said Vintage Auto Body may have been destroyed by a "dust devil," explaining that the weather conditions were favorable:  Dust devils - miniature tornados that travel along the ground and suck dust into the air - appear on sunny spring days when temperatures rise quickly in the morning.

"Sometimes the weirdest things happen on clear days," the meteorologist said.

Click here for the story.