Wild weather week ends; Mississippi River rises out of danger zone

By Dr. Jeff Masters
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Published: 2:44 PM GMT on February 01, 2013

One of the most unusual weeks of January weather in U.S. history has drawn to a close, and residents of the Southeast are cleaning up after a ferocious 2-day outbreak of severe weather. NWS damage surveys have found that at least 42 tornadoes touched down on January 29 - 30, making it the 3rd largest January tornado outbreak since records began in 1950. Here are the largest January tornado outbreaks since 1950:

129 1/21 - 1/22 1999
50 1/7 - 1/8 2008
42 1/29 - 1/30 2013
40 1/9 1/10 1975

As wunderground's Angela Fritz wrote in her blog today, the powerful tornado that ripped through Adairsville, Georgia, northwest of Atlanta, at 11:19 am EST Thursday morning, killing one person, has been rated a high-end EF-3 with 160 mph winds. At least seven other tornadoes in the outbreak were EF-2s. Damaging winds reports for the 2-day period numbered 597, the highest 2-day January total since NOAA's Storm Prediction Center (SPC) began tabulating these in 2000. The severe weather outbreak was fueled an air mass that set many all-time January records for warmth and moisture, as detailed by our weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, in his latest post, A Wild Ride Weather-wise for the Eastern Half of the U.S. the past Four Days.


Figure 1. Damage to the Daiki Corporation factory in Adairsville, GA, after the January 30, 2013 EF-3 tornado. Image credit: Dr. Greg Forbes, TWC.


Figure 2. Severe weather reports for the month of January; 597 reports of damaging winds were recorded January 29 - 30. Image credit: NOAA/SPC.

Mississippi River rising
This week's storm brought widespread rains of 1 - 2" to Missouri and Illinois, along the drainage basin of the stretch of the Mississippi River that was so low as to threaten to stop barge traffic. Happily, the rains have caused the river to rise by more than seven feet over the past week, along the stretch from St. Louis to Thebes, Illinois. Thanks to this much-needed bump in river levels, plus the future run-off that will occur from the snows that have accumulated in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa, I expect no potential low water closures of the Mississippi until June at the earliest. According to today's newly-released Drought Monitor, though, the area of the contiguous U.S. in moderate or greater drought remained unchanged at 58% this week. It will be dry across the core of the drought region for at least the next week; the GFS model is predicting that the next chance of significant precipitation for the drought region will be Saturday, February 9. Don't bet on this happening, though, since the model has been inconsistent with its handling of the storm. The drought has killed hundreds of thousands of trees across the Midwest, and many more will succumb during the next few years. According to Brian Fuchs, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center, drought was present in at least isolated spots in all 50 states of the U.S. for the first time in history during 2012.


Figure 3. The water level in the Mississippi River at St. Louis was at -4' early this week, just above the all-time record low of -6.2' set in 1940. However, rains from this week's storm have raised water levels by seven feet. Image credit: NOAA/HPC.


Figure 4. The liquid equivalent of melting all the snow on the ground present on February 1, 2013. Widespread amounts of water equivalent to 0.39" - 2" of rain are present over Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa, which is near average for this time of year. When this snow melts, it will raise the level of the Mississippi River and aid barge navigation. Image credit: NOAA/National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center.

Links
Adairsville Tornado Recap, Photos, and Video from Angela Fritz

A Wild Ride Weather-wise for the Eastern Half of the U.S. the past Four Days by wunderground's weather historian, Christopher C. Burt.

Tornado Expert Sees "Staggering" Damage in Georgia



Have a great Groundhog's Day and Super Sunday, everyone!

Jeff Masters

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About The Author
Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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Wild weather week ends; Mississippi River rises out of danger zone

One of the most unusual weeks of January weather in U.S. history has drawn to a close, and residents of the Southeast are cleaning up after a ferocious 2-day outbreak of severe weather. NWS damage surveys have found that at least 42 tornadoes touched down on January 29 - 30, making it the 3rd largest January tornado outbreak since records began in 1950. Here are the largest January tornado outbreaks since 1950:

129 1/21 - 1/22 1999
50 1/7 - 1/8 20...

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