Well, that happened. Footage has emerged of a 2003 fire that started when lighting struck a Jim Beam warehouse in Kentucky back in 2003. According to The Weather Channel, who released the video, nearly 800,000 gallons of bourbon spilled out into the neighboring pond, which ignited, forming a 100-foot tall fire tornado.
Firenadoes, or “fire devils” as they’re better known, might look like their city-leveling counterparts, but unlike true tornadoes they have little to do with weather. The rapidly spinning vortices form when air, superheated by an intense fire (in this case, fueled by bourbon), rises quickly off the ground. The upward draft interacts with any wind it meets, drawing the rising flames into a spin. This is the same way a “dust devil” would form over a field on a hot day.
Insane as it is, the phenomenon is actually relatively common, especially in areas where wildfires burn regularly:
To take matters one step closer to terrifying, scientists have discovered that with the right conditions, small fire devils can grow much larger, and begin to interact with the atmosphere through a process called “pyro-tornadogenesis.” (Pack it in, folks. It doesn’t get much more metal than that.)
“You may have seen what appears to be a growing thunderhead above an intense wildfire,” explains The Weather Channel. “Like any other cloud, this so-called pyrocumulus cloud is produced when rising air eventually condenses its water vapor into cloud droplets. If the growing pyrocumulus cloud provides a strong enough updraft, an existing firewhirl can grow into something that resembles a conventional tornado.”
The same year as the Jim Beam accident, one-such tornado, roughly one-third of a mile wide, ravaged through Canberra, Australia, producing enough wind to blow the roofs of the houses it passed.
Lucky for our distillery friends, their firenado was contained by the lake – but it did result in $27,000 in cleanup costs and a lot of dead fish.
IMAGES: The Weather Channel