Kildare farmer captures mini-tornado on video

Michael Heffernan witnessed stunning images of hay being thrown around

Farmer Michael Heffernan was baling hay on Tuesday when a mini-tornado blew up tossing hay around in a whirlwind.

An occasional videographer, he was at first rueing that he missed filming it on his phone when, like a Dublin bus, another one came along at once.

Mr Heffernan, from Fontstown in Co Kildare, managed to capture this remarkable footage with the tufts of hay being blown in a circle around the field.

The day had been warm and the mini-tornado came out of nowhere. “I had the phone out again and I just got it,” he said. “I’ve seen mini-tornados before, but not one this big.”


Mr Heffernan, who farms 160 acres in Fontstown, was making hay for his suckler cattle at the time.

He posted the footage on Twitter from his account @martique75 where he got some amusing comments.

One tweeted back to him. “Sorry to bring everything back to @realDonaldTrump, but it kind of looks like his royal hairiness on a windy day”.

Another tweeted: “Danny Healy-Rae reckons that’s no whirlwind. It’s God looking for a misplaced needle”.

Meterologically speaking, what Mr Heffernan witnessed was not a tornado but what Americans call a “dust devil” or in this case a “hay devil”.

Met Éireann forecaster Liz Walsh described a dust devil as a "small rotating column of air that occurs when one piece of ground heats up faster than the ground surrounding it on the a warm, calm and dry day.

“ Dust devils form due to intense heating at the earth’s surface causing a rapid upward movement of a parcel of air. This displacement of the air causes an inward movement of surrounding air, creating the common spiral shape of the dust devil.”

Tornados, by contrast are formed in relatively unsettled weather conditions as part of severe thunderstorms. They are similar to dust devils in the respect that they come from the creation of thermals when the sunshine heats the ground but that’s where the similarity ends.

A tornado is a rapidly rotating column of air that reaches between the base of a storm cloud and the Earth’s surface. It decends from the storm cloud whereas the dust devil ascends from the ground.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times