Tornadoes rip Alabama, Misssissippi; 17 dead in 2-day outbreak

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:51 PM GMT on April 16, 2011

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Dozens of tornadoes and dangerous severe thunderstorms tore through the Southeast U.S. on Friday, bringing a second day of severe weather havoc to the nation. The death toll from the two-day severe blitz now stands at seventeen, with up to 100 people injured and tens of millions of dollars in property damage. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center logged 98 tornado reports yesterday, bringing the two-day total for the outbreak to 120 tornadoes. These preliminary reports are usually a 15% over-count of the actual number of tornadoes, which still means over 100 tornadoes have probably touched down during the past two days. The deadliest tornado of the outbreak hit near Prattville, Alabama at 10:55pm CDT last night, killing three people in a mobile home, and injuring four others. One of the most damaging tornadoes occurred just west of Jackson, Mississippi, when a tornado touched down just south of I-20, crossed the expressway, flipping cars and semis, then plowed through the town of Clinton. At least nine people were injured in Clinton, and extensive damage characteristic of an EF-2 tornado is apparent in damage photos.


Figure 1. Radar reflectivity image of the Clinton, Mississippi tornado at 10:57am CDT as the twister crossed I-20 and hit the town. Note the classic hook-shaped echo of the parent mesocyclone in the rotating severe thunderstorms that spawned the tornado.


Figure 2. Doppler radar velocity image of the Clinton, Mississippi tornado at 10:57am CDT.

On Thursday, tornadoes and deadly severe thunderstorms tore through Oklahoma and Arkansas, killing at least nine people. A EF-3 tornado hit the small town of Tushka, Oklahoma, population 350, ripping off the roof of the local high school and destroying dozens of buildings in Tushka. Two people were killed and 25 injured. The tornado moved over farmland and dissipated a short time later, but the squall line that spawned the tornado moved into Arkansas overnight, spawning severe thunderstorm winds that killed seven more people.

Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina under the gun today
The action shifts eastwards to southern Virgina and eastern North Carolina and South Carolina today, which NOAA's Storm Prediction Center have placed under its "moderate risk" region for severe weather. This is the same level of risk as we've seen for the past two days for this storm system, and it is very unusual for this portion of the U.S. to experience such a high severe weather risk. Tornado watches have already been posted for portions of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. You can follow today's severe weather using our severe weather page and interactive tornado map. This map now shows links to Youtube storm chaser videos of tornadoes, plus any wunderphotos taken of the storm.


Figure 3. Satellite image from 23:32 UTC (7:32pm CDT) April 15, 2011, showing the strong low pressure system over the middle of the country that brought yesterday's severe weather outbreak. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.


Figure 4. Water vapor satellite image from 23:15 UTC (7:15pm CDT) April 15, 2011, showing a dry, eye-like feature in the strong low pressure system over the middle of the country. This eye-like feature persisted for many hours, but was not visible on infrared or visible satellite images. According to an analysis done by Scott Bachmeier at the University of Wisconsin, the stratosphere, which has very dry air, sunk down to the 600 mb height at the center of the storm, and it is possible that dry air from the stratosphere is responsible for this eye-like feature. This is a different mechanism than how hurricanes develop eyes, and yesterday's storm had only a shallow area of low clouds with light rain near the center--nothing like an eyewall of a hurricane. Image credit: NOAA.


Figure 5. Storm chaser video from Reed Timmer of the Clinton, Mississippi tornado on April 15, 2011. Numerous transformers blow as the tornado wipes out power lines, creating bright blue-green flashes.


Figure 6. Storm chaser video from tornadovideos.net of a huge tornado in Oklahoma during Thursday's outbreak there.

Jeff Masters

Monster Supercell (Californiaboy)
Plowing over the countryside on its way to Madill.
Monster Supercell
Stacked Up (Californiaboy)
Tractor rig picked up and placed on top of the others. Taken 2 miles north of Madill.
Stacked Up
Madill Tornado (Californiaboy)
Taken shortly after 6 p.m. on Hwy 70 looking east. The tornado hit 2 miles north of town.
Madill Tornado

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291. beell
10:39 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
Quoting 1900hurricane:
Helicity values are quite high:



Truly insane, 1900.

In fact when you get right up in the boundary intersection I don't even think the RUC can resolve the correct value. Needless to say they are high!
Member Since: September 11, 2007 Posts: 137 Comments: 15303
290. DontAnnoyMe
10:31 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
2116 2 ENE BONNEAU BERKELEY SC 3332 7993 *** 6 INJ *** A FIRE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL REPORTED A FULLY COLLAPSED CHURCH WITH 6 PEOPLE INJURED IN BETWEEN SAINT STEPHEN SOUTH CAROLINA AND BONNEAU SOUTH CAROLINA ALON (CHS)
Member Since: September 21, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3690
289. 1900hurricane
10:30 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
Helicity values are quite high:

Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 45 Comments: 11556
288. PlazaRed
10:30 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
Thanks for putting up all this information on what is happening over in the USA over the last 2 days,It reminds me of winter in the north of the UK but with the tornado's thrown in. This is the first time I have ever seen anything like this from an impartial observers point of view. with those storm projections it seems that Canada and the arctic above will be getting a bit of warming air soon.

Due to the time difference thing, it is nor always possible to follow all your excellent comments without forgoing work the following day, as Europe is at least 6 hours after the US times but reading back over the last 2 days, I cant help but wonder the ''Russian Roulette,'' of a life that people live in the Mid West States with the tornado's.

I really missed out on 'sticking my oar,{drill bit,} in last night with all that talk about earth quake causes and projections but another time?
People really do have to get into perspective the power of these things. Just one earthquake at a 9+ on the Richter scale can have as much energy as humans, create/use in a 100 years, no joking here, these are serious things and all let loose in a few seconds.

Sunday tomorrow, so I can read on all night, on and off. Thanks.
Member Since: January 21, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1930
287. watchingnva
10:29 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
looks like itll miss just to the south...good news...
Member Since: September 7, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 1475
285. watchingnva
10:12 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
yea. its literally on a line to the radar...not good!
Member Since: September 7, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 1475
284. Barefootontherocks
10:11 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
Quoting aquak9:
B'foot- I never said P'cola was wrong about anything. I was only commenting on the blue sky.

Still hasn't quite hit me, what I just watched happen. Obviously Not Much is gonna stand up to an EF3 or EF4.

So all of you- forgive my naive remarks concerning the structural integrity -or lack thereof- of a Lowe's, ok? Looks like people LIVED.


Wanted my comment to show what a strong tornado can do. Maybe I didn't phrase it well by using your quote and the reference to his reply for a lead in. If I offended you, that was not my intent.
Member Since: April 29, 2006 Posts: 147 Comments: 17484
282. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
10:10 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52257
281. VAbeachhurricanes
10:08 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
Quoting watchingnva:
that cell is heading straight for wakefield....


yeah, last thing they need that radar going down
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5695
280. watchingnva
10:06 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
that cell is heading straight for wakefield....
Member Since: September 7, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 1475
278. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
10:05 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
x
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52257
277. VAbeachhurricanes
10:05 PM GMT on April 16, 2011


well defined hook back, should pass right to the NW of me. (Crosshairs)
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5695
275. DontAnnoyMe
10:01 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
.
Member Since: September 21, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3690
274. DontAnnoyMe
10:00 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
Lots of damage reports coming into RAH NWS office now. Roanoke Rapids now reporting damage/gas leaks.
Member Since: September 21, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3690
273. largeeyes
10:00 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
Trained spotter just reported tornado near Farmville, heading just north of Greenville(about an hour from here).
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1449
272. Barefootontherocks
9:57 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
Quoting beell:


And I put an "r" in the right place and the wrong place.

usually: strom
today: strorm


I noticed that.
:)
Member Since: April 29, 2006 Posts: 147 Comments: 17484
271. DontAnnoyMe
9:57 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
Quoting cat5hurricane:

I'm hearing from several news outlooks that the area along and near Saunders Road (on the south end of town as you alluded to) was at least one of the more areas that were hardest hit in downtown Raleigh proper.


Yeah, because it's Raleigh, it's getting the coverage. But there has also been extensive damage in Sanford, Fayetteville, Wilson, and Smithfield.
Member Since: September 21, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3690
270. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
9:56 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52257
269. beell
9:54 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
Quoting Barefootontherocks:


Whoa.


And I put an "r" in the right place and the wrong place.

usually: strom
today: strorm
Member Since: September 11, 2007 Posts: 137 Comments: 15303
267. DontAnnoyMe
9:52 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
Looks like worst hit area is S-SW Raleigh, transmission lines are down and there are gas leaks. Search and rescue missions are underway, haven't heard of any fatalities yet. Regardless, this outbreak of tornadoes in ENC will make the '84 outbreak look like a picnic.
Member Since: September 21, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3690
265. PcolaDan
9:51 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
Quoting aquak9:
B'foot- I never said P'cola was wrong about anything. I was only commenting on the blue sky.

Still hasn't quite hit me, what I just watched happen. Obviously Not Much is gonna stand up to an EF3 or EF4.

So all of you- forgive my naive remarks concerning the structural integrity -or lack thereof- of a Lowe's, ok? Looks like people LIVED.


Maybe if they had bought their stuff from Ace... :)
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
264. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
9:50 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
<
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52257
263. VAbeachhurricanes
9:50 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
there are others to your south as front lifts up and east those will hit head on keep your head up your eyes wide open


don't worry been watching it all day, hopefully these college dorms are up for it.
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5695
262. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
9:48 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


thanks, looks like it is moving a bit north now.
there are others to your south as front lifts up and east those will hit head on keep your head up your eyes wide open
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52257
261. VAbeachhurricanes
9:45 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
you are at dead centre in the image


thanks, looks like it is moving a bit north now.
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5695
260. Barefootontherocks
9:45 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
Quoting beell:
Even the SPC is a bit shook-reporting Strorm relative helicities in J/kg instead of m2/s2




Whoa.
Member Since: April 29, 2006 Posts: 147 Comments: 17484
259. seflagamma
9:44 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
VA, does not look good for you; hope you are somewhere in a safe place...

Keeper thanks!

We got the best bunch of weather geeks here to provide us with all the radars and info and watches and warning we need to keep ourself and our family/friends safe.

You all are the BEST!!!
Member Since: August 29, 2005 Posts: 294 Comments: 40839
258. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
9:43 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
you are at dead centre in the image
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52257
257. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
9:42 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
<
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52257
256. aquak9
9:42 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:
Latitude Longitude

37.06381 -76.4942


get on it, keeper
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25506
254. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
9:40 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
for you VA wait got a better one with those coor.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52257
253. VAbeachhurricanes
9:38 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
Latitude Longitude

37.06381 -76.4942
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5695
252. beell
9:37 PM GMT on April 16, 2011
Even the SPC is a bit shook-reporting storm relative helicities in J/kg instead of m2/s2



MESOSCALE DISCUSSION 0460
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
0349 PM CDT SAT APR 16 2011

AREAS AFFECTED...PORTIONS S-CENTRAL/SERN VA...CENTRAL/ERN NC...ERN
SC.

CONCERNING...TORNADO WATCH 150...

VALID 162049Z - 162215Z

THE SEVERE WEATHER THREAT FOR TORNADO WATCH 150 CONTINUES.

BKN BAND OF SVR CONVECTION...INCLUDING A FEW CYCLIC/LONG-TRACKED
SUPERCELLS WITH HISTORY OF DESTRUCTIVE TORNADOES...IS MOVING NEWD
ACROSS WW IN SRN VA AND CENTRAL-ERN NC. CONDITIONS REMAIN QUITE
FAVORABLE FOR TORNADIC SUPERCELLS TO PERSIST EWD ACROSS COASTAL
PLAIN TO TIDEWATER
...CONTINUING ONGOING REGIME OF
DAMAGING/SIGNIFICANT TORNADO POTENTIAL FOR A FEW MORE HOURS AT
LEAST.

SFC ANALYSIS INDICATES WARM FRONT LIFTING NWD ACROSS CENTRAL AND
SERN VA...WHICH WILL LEAVE ENTIRE WW IN SFC-BASED EFFECTIVE INFLOW

SHORTLY. STG PRESSURE FALLS CONTINUE AHEAD OF PRIMARY TSTM
CORRIDOR...ARE HELPING TO MAINTAIN RELATIVELY BACKED SFC
WINDS.
..ENLARGED LOW-LEVEL HODOGRAPHS AND FAVORABLE STORM-RELATIVE
INFLOW. ALTHOUGH RDU VWP HAS BEEN AFFECTED BY GUST FRONT FROM
EARLIER TORNADIC SUPERCELL IN THAT AREA...PRE-STORM
PROFILE...INTERPOLATED WITH VWP AT AKQ...APPEAR TO REPRESENT
KINEMATIC ENVIRONMENT WELL OVER NERN NC AND SERN VA. THOSE
DATA...ALONG WITH MODIFIED RUC SOUNDINGS...INDICATE 0-1 KM SRH
AROUND 500
J/KG...TRENDING TO AROUND 250-300 J/KG OVER EXTREME ERN
SC...WITH 0-3 KM SRH UP TO 900 J/KG AND 0-1 KM SHEAR MAGNITUDES
35-40 KT IN SERN VA NEAR WARM FRONT
. SUCH LOW-LEVEL SHEAR AND SRH
ARE
EXTREME FOR ANY AIR MASS WITH SFC-BASED PARCELS...AND ARE
SUPERIMPOSED ON 50-60 KT EFFECTIVE SHEAR MAGNITUDES. MLCAPE WILL
RANGE FROM AROUND 500 J/KG OVER SERN VA TO NEAR 1500 J/KG OVER SERN
NC AND ERN SC THROUGH 23Z
.

..EDWARDS.. 04/16/2011
Member Since: September 11, 2007 Posts: 137 Comments: 15303
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:
ugh, that storm that went through raleigh has its TVS back, and its still right at me.
Do you have a safe place to go?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:
ugh, that storm that went through raleigh has its TVS back, and its still right at me.
what are your lon and lat points
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52257
Quoting aquak9:
B'foot- I never said P'cola was wrong about anything. I was only commenting on the blue sky.

Still hasn't quite hit me, what I just watched happen. Obviously Not Much is gonna stand up to an EF3 or EF4.

So all of you- forgive my naive remarks concerning the structural integrity -or lack thereof- of a Lowe's, ok? Looks like people LIVED.


I knew what you meant my friend!

Member Since: August 29, 2005 Posts: 294 Comments: 40839
Quoting cat5hurricane:
I have family in Andrews near Kingstree. Another eerie looking hook echo here.



Hope they stay safe!
Member Since: April 29, 2006 Posts: 147 Comments: 17484
<
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52257
ugh, that storm that went through raleigh has its TVS back, and its still right at me.
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5695
B'foot- I never said P'cola was wrong about anything. I was only commenting on the blue sky.

Still hasn't quite hit me, what I just watched happen. Obviously Not Much is gonna stand up to an EF3 or EF4.

So all of you- forgive my naive remarks concerning the structural integrity -or lack thereof- of a Lowe's, ok? Looks like people LIVED.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25506
Quoting DontAnnoyMe:


Thus far, there have been no reports of injuries or deaths. Hopefully that will not change, but the TV stations here are still concentrating on storm warnings vs. reporting news.


Thanks yes, that is possible.. they have not had time to really assess the situation yet.


I've been "huddled in a bathtub" with a baby mattress over our head (me, my dog, a college friend and her baby) and the husbands were out of the tub but against the wall with mattress in from of them...
scary stuff.. the roof split open.. roars like Hell is exploding....10 seconds feel like 10 hours..
then all is surreal when you finally come out of hiding and realize you are in one piece and no one is hurt. But distruction is everywhere.
This was Jonesboro, Arkansas probably spring 1972??? We were all in college back in those days.

Night tornadoes are the worse.. heck any night storm is the worse.


Edited later: I looked it up and this tornado hit May 1973.. which followed almost exact path of one 5 years earlier on May 15, 1968.
both were killers and destroyed this college town in NE Arkansas.
Member Since: August 29, 2005 Posts: 294 Comments: 40839

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About JeffMasters

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