This reporter got stuck driving through a ‘tumbleweed tornado’

A journalist in Washington is going viral after sharing a video of his experience getting stuck inside a “tumbleweed tornado.”

Matt M. McKnight, a reporter for the nonprofit news site Crosscut, captured the footage while driving near Richland, Wash., on April 30. McKnight, who was driving in his 1985 Volkswagen Vanagon at the time, pulled to the side of the road after he saw a group of tumbleweeds picking up speed in the air.

The video, which has racked up more than 73,000 views in less than a day, shows the view from McKnight’s van as the vortex approaches and ultimately surrounds his vehicle.

McKnight was quick to tell his followers that both he and his van — which he calls “Bessie” — made it through the phenomenon OK. Still, hundreds of Twitter users poured in with reactions to the “wild scene.”

“When I read @mattmillsphoto‘s Slack note that he saw a tumbleweed tornado, I thought he meant a few tumbleweeds spinning around on the ground not…THIS,” Ana Sofia Knauf, one of McKnight’s colleagues, tweeted.

“Omg that would scratch a car up easily!” another Twitter user wrote.

It’s unclear how common “tumbleweed tornados” are in Washington state, but, apparently, they do have a technical name. Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, chimed in to tell Twitter users that the phenomenon is referred to as a “dust devil” or a “tumbleweed vortex.”

If you liked this story, check out In The Know’s article on the needy dog that crashed its owner’s at-home weather forecast.

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