Tornadoes pound North Carolina and Virginia, killing 25

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:45 PM GMT on April 17, 2011

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In a stunning display of violence, dozens of tornadoes rampaged through North Carolina and Virginia on Saturday, killing at least 25 people, injuring at least 130, and damaging or destroying at least 450 homes and businesses. Hardest hit in yesterday's outbreak was the the town of Askewville in northeast North Carolina, where a violent tornado that was likely at least an EF-3 ripped homes off their foundations and killed eleven people. Also hard-hit was the Raleigh area, where a mile-wide EF-3 tornado with 140 - 150 mph winds roared through the downtown region, killing five people. The 22 deaths in North Carolina made yesterday's outbreak the deadliest day for tornadoes in the state since 1984, when the infamous March 28 tornado outbreak killed 57 people and injured 1248.


Figure 1. Viewer-uploaded photo sent to WRAL of the Raleigh tornado shortly before it leveled a Lowes store in Sanford, NC.


Figure 2. Radar reflectivity loop of the Raleigh, North Carolina tornado at 3:59pm EDT as the twister passed through downtown. Note the classic hook-shaped echo of the parent mesocyclone in the rotating severe thunderstorms that spawned the tornado.


Figure 3. Doppler radar velocity image of the Raleigh, North Carolina tornado at 3:59pm EDT.

NOAA's Storm Prediction Center logged 105 tornado reports on Saturday, 113 on Friday, and 23 on Thursday, bringing the 3-day total to 241 twisters. These preliminary tornado reports are typically an over-count of about 15%, so the 3-day April 14 - 16 2011 tornado outbreak likely will end up with 200 - 210 confirmed tornadoes. This is a huge number of tornadoes; an average April typically has just 150 tornadoes across the entire U.S.

On Thursday, the first day of this remarkable outbreak, 23 tornadoes and numerous deadly severe thunderstorms tore through Oklahoma and Arkansas, killing at least nine people. An 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 Thursday night, spawning severe thunderstorm winds that killed seven more people. The outbreak ramped up significantly on Friday, with 113 tornado reports. The deadliest tornado of the day an EF-3 twister that hit Prattville, Alabama at 10:55pm CDT, killing three people in a mobile home, and injuring four others. One of the most damaging tornadoes occurred just west of Jackson, Mississippi, when an EF-3 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 Malaco Records, one of the top Blues/Gospel/Soul labels in the country, was destroyed by the tornado.


Figure 4. Satellite image from 21:40 UTC (5:40pm EDT) April 16, 2011, showing the strong low pressure system that brought yesterday's severe weather outbreak. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

WRAL has an impressive time lapse animation from a skycam on a tall skyscraper in Raleigh showing what at the time was believed to be a rain-wrapped Raleigh tornado moving through downtown, but was actually just a thunderstorm downdraft.

Wikipedia has a nice summary of the tornado outbreak.

Jeff Masters

Northeast Raleigh Tornado (CaryWeatherman)
Tornado moved from 440 Beltline in NNW direction towards 540 Beltline severly damaged homes along Skycrest, New Hope, and Buffalo Road. Large Utility lines down, large trees down, overturned vehicles, flattened and severely damaged homes are prevalent in affected areas.
Northeast Raleigh Tornado
Uprooted (CaryWeatherman)
Tornado damage and downed trees NE Raleigh
Uprooted
Projectile (CaryWeatherman)
The tornado took a tree trunk and used it as a missile through the attic of this house in NE Raleigh.
Projectile

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I'm off to bed, but before I go, I see the NCDC is out with the March, 2011, climate report. Not a lot of surprises, really, for those who haven't seen it. Just more warming as usual. Among the highlights:

--The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for March 2011 was the 13th warmest on record at 13.19C (55.78F), which is 0.49C (0.88F) above the 20th century average of 12.7C (54.9F). This was also the 35th consecutive March with global land and ocean temperatures above the 20th century average.

--The March worldwide land surface temperature was 0.83C (1.49F) above the 20th century average of 5.0C (40.8F)—the 12th warmest March on record.

--The March worldwide ocean surface temperature was 0.36C (0.65F) above the 20th century average of 15.9C (60.7F)—also the 12th warmest March on record.

--For the year-to-date, the global combined land and ocean surface temperature of 12.73C (54.87F) was the 14th warmest January–March on record. This value is 0.43C (0.77F) above the 20th century average.

--Australia had its wettest and coolest March on record. (Oddly, within the State of Western Australia, the eastern portion had its coolest March on record while its southwest had its warmest.)

--March had the third lowest Antarctic sea ice extent on record, while sea ice extent in the Arctic was the second lowest on record.

As always, there is far more information here.Appropriate tropical weather-related image.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13796
Quoting pottery:

Sorry.
I was sure when I left home there was a good bit in the jug. But it must have leaked out or something....
Probably a problem with the glaze or the firing, I have noticed the same phenomenon. Then again it could have something to do with aliens or maybe some weather thing that Levi could explain.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Are storms developing? Nope, those are bats!!!

Ya sure those aren't aliens? Bats are kinda funny lookin', in the face y'know.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 177 Comments: 26630
This is completely unrelated to everything, but it's still pretty cool. Check out the Central Texas Radar:



Are storms developing? Nope, those are bats!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Recoon stole the rum. Can't post a pic- Recoon's a bannable offense.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 177 Comments: 26630
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
ya blog has gone into relapse
time for an intervention
pottery did you bring the rum

Sorry.
I was sure when I left home there was a good bit in the jug. But it must have leaked out or something....
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24876
Quoting aquak9:
hi pottery- I can't even figure out what they're arguing about.

Tip'o'the'Day: Never try to argue with someone who's been abducted by aliens.

LOL to that!
How has your weather been this week?
Hot and dry here today, but we did see a cloud this morning...
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24876
ya blog has gone into relapse
time for an intervention
pottery did you bring the rum
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
151. StAugustineFL
1:25 AM GMT on April 18, 2011
In a sick twist of irony, I found the historic tornadic outbreak comparable to two heavyweight boxers going toe-to-toe. In the end, as the storm was close to exiting the coast, mother nature threw her knockout punch in Bertie County. Terrible and God bless all affected.
Member Since: March 8, 2011 Posts: 1 Comments: 837
150. aquak9
1:25 AM GMT on April 18, 2011
hi pottery- I can't even figure out what they're arguing about.

Tip'o'the'Day: Never try to argue with someone who's been abducted by aliens.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 177 Comments: 26630
149. pottery
1:24 AM GMT on April 18, 2011
Quoting Orcasystems:


They keep forgetting one of the golden rules of blogging...


Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience

I was about to argue with you about that. But I am taking your advice to heart! Thanks.

heheheheh, How you doing, Orca?
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148. Orcasystems
1:24 AM GMT on April 18, 2011


Click to enlarge
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26516
147. Orcasystems
1:16 AM GMT on April 18, 2011
Quoting pottery:
I've seen some ridiculous disagreements on this blog, but the current one is about as low as it can get.


They keep forgetting one of the golden rules of blogging...


Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26516
146. Neapolitan
1:03 AM GMT on April 18, 2011
Here's an updated version of that homemade graphic I threw together by combining the SPC's storm data and graphics for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13796
145. StAugustineFL
1:02 AM GMT on April 18, 2011
Quoting Neapolitan:

It's all about wind resistance. A blade of normal lawn grass might be 5 mm wide by 50 mm tall, for a flat plane are of 250 mm/2 (0.00025 m/2). On the other hand, the windward face of a building might be, say, 72 m/2. That gives the building about 288,000 times more surface area than the grass--and hence 288,000 more wind resistance. By that aspect alone, the roots on an individual blade of grass are easily able to hold fast.

On top of that, a few other factors work against the building: grass is flexible, where a building wall is not; grass is closer to the ground, where friction saps the wind of speed; and grass roots are usually intertwined, where, say, a home may be standing alone.

Good question, though...


Look up the "Power Law" for winds. Exponentially weaker wind as you get closer to the surface, and, yes, on a scale of inches, the drag saps the wind speed down to very little a grass level.

(Besides the valid flexibility point.)

First time trying to quote two bloggers at once so not sure if I'm doing this correctly. Thank you Nea and Atmo for the information.
Member Since: March 8, 2011 Posts: 1 Comments: 837
143. presslord
1:02 AM GMT on April 18, 2011
Quoting pottery:
I've seen some ridiculous disagreements on this blog, but the current one is about as low as it can get.


you'll never go broke under estimating human behavior...
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
142. pottery
1:00 AM GMT on April 18, 2011
I've seen some ridiculous disagreements on this blog, but the current one is about as low as it can get.
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24876
140. atmoaggie
12:53 AM GMT on April 18, 2011
Y'all need to start trading WUmails...

This isn't your venue for that.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
136. atmoaggie
12:48 AM GMT on April 18, 2011
Quoting StAugustineFL:


What I don't understand is how grass with roots a couple of inches deep can remain intact while buildings are leveled. Can someone explain?
Look up the "Power Law" for winds. Exponentially weaker wind as you get closer to the surface, and, yes, on a scale of inches, the drag saps the wind speed down to very little at grass level.

(Besides the valid flexibility point.)
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
132. Tazmanian
12:35 AM GMT on April 18, 2011
Link



link on the top
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115454
131. Tazmanian
12:33 AM GMT on April 18, 2011
Sanford...Holly Springs...Raleigh EF3 Tornado survey..
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115454
129. presslord
12:24 AM GMT on April 18, 2011
Quoting PcolaDan:
and are used on all religion comments, even those with a ;-) as a lame attempt to show jest and/or sarcasm.


Good God!! ;-)

Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
128. hurricanejunky
12:21 AM GMT on April 18, 2011
Quoting Neapolitan:

I have (many times in the past, in fact). What of it? That is, do you have a particular question?


That's why he's a regular on my iggy list...UGH!
Member Since: August 28, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 2899
127. PcolaDan
12:18 AM GMT on April 18, 2011
and are used on all religion comments, even those with a ;-) as a lame attempt to show jest and/or sarcasm.
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
126. Neapolitan
12:13 AM GMT on April 18, 2011
Quoting help4u:
Neapolitian read Romans 1:18-20.

I have (many times in the past, in fact). What of it? That is, do you have a particular question?
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13796
125. Neapolitan
12:11 AM GMT on April 18, 2011
Quoting StAugustineFL:


What I don't understand is how grass with roots a couple of inches deep can remain intact while buildings are leveled. Can someone explain?

It's all about wind resistance. A blade of normal lawn grass might be 5 mm wide by 50 mm tall, for a flat plane are of 250 mm/2 (0.00025 m/2). On the other hand, the windward face of a building might be, say, 72 m/2. That gives the building about 288,000 times more surface area than the grass--and hence 288,000 more wind resistance. By that aspect alone, the roots on an individual blade of grass are easily able to hold fast.

On top of that, a few other factors work against the building: grass is flexible, where a building wall is not; grass is closer to the ground, where friction saps the wind of speed; and grass roots are usually intertwined, where, say, a home may be standing alone.

Good question, though...
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13796
124. CybrTeddy
12:08 AM GMT on April 18, 2011
Its a long shot for sure, but the NOGAPS, CMC, ECMWF, and the GFS all show ''something'' out there around 84 hours or so. ECMWF and GFS however do not show a tropical/sub-tropical cyclone rather just a low pressure.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24574
122. TomTaylor
11:55 PM GMT on April 17, 2011
Thanks Levi, sorry bout the typo
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4358
121. Levi32
11:51 PM GMT on April 17, 2011
Gulf waters are warm in almost every La Nina winter. It is nothing unusual or record-breaking. Even in El Nino winters, the gulf always warms up if the AMO is positive. Take last year for an example.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
120. PlazaRed
11:42 PM GMT on April 17, 2011
Noting the words of:-Hurricanedean07.

Also do you think all these different things that help support TC formation that have been adding up this year, will support a potent storm season?
Examples:
~MJO over Americas
~Below Average Shear
~Warm Gulf SST's
~Steering coming in place
~still in La Nina/Neutral
~Tropical Patterns ahead of schedule

You sure know how to hit the nail on the head here.

Those SST's are going to be the key to all that will follow and they might just make above historic records,this year, then its uncharted waters and turbulent air.

My bet is still to get the first stir of activity above the north east coast of Panama In the direction of Cuba.Just a guess though!
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119. Levi32
11:38 PM GMT on April 17, 2011
It would have to stay south of 27-28N though, or SSTs get far too cold.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
118. Levi32
11:34 PM GMT on April 17, 2011
Just for the record, the NOGAPS, usually more conservative, shows the potential for pressures to lower, not rise:

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
117. Gearsts
11:33 PM GMT on April 17, 2011
Quoting Levi32:
The 12z Euro doesn't quite get the cut-off at 200mb, and the surface low is under the divergent jet-streak on the southeast flank of the 200mb trough. This is why, shortly afterwards on the run, the surface low falls off into the trade winds to the west and dissipates.

12z Euro 120 hours (MSLP, 200mb wind barbs):

Levi please to a tropical Tidbit ^^
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116. Levi32
11:33 PM GMT on April 17, 2011
Quoting TomTaylor:
Levin could you give me a link to that?


Link
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
115. Levi32
11:32 PM GMT on April 17, 2011
Quoting HurricaneDean07:

Hey Levi, I have been awaiting to see if you update your blog. I was wondering about how all the models have been showing so many random probabilities of a TC formation in the EPAC and ATL.
Examples:
GFS on 14th:
Showes and EPAC storm forming and then getting pulled into the Caribbean, and becoming a potent low.

CMC today:
(this is to be expected by them) a strong subtropical system forming and becoming Arlene.

Also do you think all these different things that help support TC formation that have been adding up this year, will support a potent storm season?
Examples:
~MJO over Americas
~Below Average Shear
~Warm Gulf SST's
~Steering coming in place
~still in La Nina/Neutral
~Tropical Patterns ahead of schedule

Thanks....


It should be a more active than normal year, but we're not really ahead of schedule right now. We're still waiting for the equatorial high to start shifting northward.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
114. TomTaylor
11:30 PM GMT on April 17, 2011
Quoting Levi32:
One can see it stacked under a closed low at 500mb, though. The key will be getting the cut-off up to 200mb.

Levi could you give me a link to that?
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4358
113. HurricaneDean07
11:27 PM GMT on April 17, 2011
Quoting Levi32:



Hey Levi, I have been awaiting to see if you update your blog. I was wondering about how all the models have been showing so many random probabilities of a TC formation in the EPAC and ATL.
Examples:
GFS on 14th:
Showes and EPAC storm forming and then getting pulled into the Caribbean, and becoming a potent low.

CMC today:
(this is to be expected by them) a strong subtropical system forming and becoming Arlene.

Also do you think all these different things that help support TC formation that have been adding up this year, will support a potent storm season?
Examples:
~MJO over Americas
~Below Average Shear
~Warm Gulf SST's
~Steering coming in place
~still in La Nina/Neutral
~Tropical Patterns ahead of schedule

Thanks....
Member Since: October 3, 2010 Posts: 40 Comments: 4129
112. Levi32
11:26 PM GMT on April 17, 2011
Quoting Orcasystems:


The concern was an early start... that's seldom good. I still have not forgiven you for your statement we were in for a cold winter.. which has not really stopped yet!


Yeah, well subtropical activity says little about whether actual tropical activity will get an early start. The only potential clue they could give is the tendency for cut-off upper lows to form.

Stay warm over there :P
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
111. Levi32
11:24 PM GMT on April 17, 2011
One can see it stacked under a closed low at 500mb, though. The key will be getting the cut-off up to 200mb.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
110. presslord
11:23 PM GMT on April 17, 2011
VAbeach...check your WU mail
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492

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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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