Man Driving Through California Experiences A Terrifying ‘Gustnado’

  • A gustnado is considered a tornado's "weaker cousin."
  • It lasts only a few minutes but can produce the same damage as an EF-0 or EF-1 tornado.

Ever heard of a gustnado? We haven’t either—but it looks pretty horrifying.

A man named Brent Rose drove through this unusual combination of heavy wind, dust, and rain near Buttonwillow, California in early September and posted the harrowing video to YouTube.

He said of the freak storm, “I was driving down the highway and noticed that it was pretty gusty, then suddenly it went full whiteout. I pulled over immediately, even though I couldn’t even see the side of the road. It felt like I was in a tornado and I was afraid my van (which is a tall Sprinter van) would be knocked over. When it finally subsided, it had ripped the cover off my air conditioner unit on top (which I found about 50 yards away in an irrigation ditch), and the whole van was completely caked in mud (because it was a dust storm with rain in it, so it turned to mud mid-air). Very scary.”

Carlos Molina, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service says a gustnado is essentially a tornado’s weaker cousin. “A tornado can last five or 10 minutes. A gustnado comes through, and within a minute it has dissipated.”

A gustnado forms by a strong downdraft, or rush of wind, from a thunderstorm. When these strong winds race towards the surface, they may be able to rebound off of it and rotate. The difference between a gustnado and a tornado? A gustnado does not connect to any “cloud-based rotation.” Most of the time, gustnadoes only last a few seconds to a few minutes—a few may be able to produce damage, typically at the same level as an EF-0 or EF-1 tornado.

Rose has been traveling around the U.S. in a van writing stories and shooting photos and video for two years. He shared the video to social media saying, “It was one of the scariest things that’s happened since this journey began.” It looks like that’s the case to us, too.