A small dust devil injured six people at the Bassett Heritage Festival in Henry County Saturday. 

"The dust devil developed around 4:00 p.m. in a field off Fairystone Park Highway," says Dale Wagoner, Deputy Administrator with Henry County.

The dust devil lifted several large, tied down tents into the air, then dropped them down onto a crowd of people. 

The National Weather Service in Blacksburg reports winds were estimated at 40 MPH with the isolated event.

Ironically, organizers moved the festival to the grassy area across from Wells Fargo bank and the fire station just this year. 


Dust devils form through a different mechanism than tornadoes, and are much smaller.

Dust devils usually don't extend any more than 100 feet into the air, and rarely cause damage, let alone injuries.

As was the case Saturday, they usually develop in relatively dry conditions, when sunlight is providing strong heating off the surface, and when surface winds are generally light.

With little resistance, the wind gets stronger aloft than near the ground. When these rolls get tilted upright, then a dust devil can form and start picking up dust and debris.

The winds with a dust devil are typically between 35-70 mph, where tornadoes winds can range from 65-200 mph.