Q: What exactly is a dust devil? A: It's really not that sinister, says Brent McRoberts of Texas A&M University. He says a dust devil is a swirling windthat looks like a small tornado, but is not. "Dust devils often occur on sunny days with no clouds in the sky," he explains. "They may look like a small tornado because of their funnel shape, but they are usually harmless. The winds produced by a dust devil rarely exceed 30 to 40 miles per hour, not really capable of doing any damage, but fast enough to give you a mouth full of dust and dirt. They only last a few seconds."