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    Australia Firestorm Called First Confirmed Fire Tornado

    November 20, 2012, 4:46:43 AM EST

    A firestorm that sprung from a devastating 2003 bushfire in Canberra, Australia, has been called the world's first confirmed case of a fire tornado.

    The twister packed horizontal winds "in excess of 250 km/h [155 mph]" with vertical speeds "at 150 km/h [90-95 mph]", the Australian ABC News website said.

    "Our analysis indicates that the tornado had a rating of at least a two on the enhanced Fujita scale of tornado severity," lead researcher Rick McRae said, quoted by ABC.

    A wind speed above 155 mph is marginal between F-2 and F-3 on the Fujita-Pearson tornado intensity scale.

    McRae, of the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre, made the distinction between fire whirls, which are fairly common, and this full-blown tornado, which was apparently anchored to a parent thunderstorm.

    The tornado had a basal diameter of "nearly half a kilometer [third of a mile]" as it neared the outskirts of Canberra.

    Pine plantations were felled, houses were unroofed and cars were blown of the road, according to McRae.

    The fire claimed the lives of 4 people and destroyed 491 houses.

    Video credit: col05au/YouTube.com

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